LMM International Airport (SJU)

Renovations and repairs are expected to be completed by 2020. >Courtesy

The company that manages the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, Aerostar Airport Holdings, announced that, at a cost of $200 million, it intends to develop its five-year expansion and improvement plan that will renovate and modernize the airport complex, able to meet new demands from visitors.

Aerostar COO Jorge Hernández explained to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that these improvement plans include recovery projects from Hurricane Maria's impact on the island back in 2017.

Among the areas to be renovated, he mentioned the restoration of more than one million square feet of the roof of the airport terminals, as well as other structural areas.

The plan includes improvements to the areas where the aircrafts operate and land, the reconstruction of runway 826, and the culmination of the 'taxiway' that connects through the terminals and two main runways. In addition, improvements to the ramps and outdoor areas. The agenda also includes improvements and repairs in Terminal D.

"We trust that by the third trimester next year we will have finished projects that will allow us to offer our visitors more modern facilities. The federal government pairs funds to be able to perform many of these works," Hernández stated.

New Routes

The COO acknowledged that the process to establish new routes takes a long time and many resources to move from one destination to another.

However, he affirmed he held direct and continuous conversations with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC), a group of investors, and the route development groups to negotiate new routes as a global concept.

"We are working on several fronts and several initiatives to attract these new destinations, which translate into higher volumes of visitors," he said.

Aerostar is in negotiations with other air transport companies to offer new offers and expect passenger traffic to grow between two percent and three percent over the next year.

He also recognized that the development of new routes is the biggest challenge for his company, so he will continue working to create a route development approach that results in greater traffic.

"It's a matter of teamwork, where the maritime area and other areas are developed to result in greater volumes," Hernández observed.

On this particular, as recent as last Thursday, Frontier Airlines announced its new route between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Luis Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) on a daily basis and will begin operating from November 14 for the winter season.

For this route, Frontier will use an Airbus A321 airplane. This route represents about 27,140 seats, between November 14 and March 11, with an estimated economic impact of approximately $10 million.

Another of the challenges identified by the executive is to achieve the total resilience of the airport, so that they can operate as independently as possible amid any eventuality. In this particular, they are already working with the development of a micro-network at the cogeneration level, which can offer the energy service immediately.

Hernández announced that his investment group is interested in operating regional airports.

He stated that as an entity they always keep observing new opportunities and as a group of shareholders—not as Aerostar—that are made up of 60 percent of ASUR investors and 40 percent of Avia Alliance investors, they represent one of the proponents to operate Puerto Rico's regional airports through a public-private partnership (p3).

Diverse Offers

Aware of the diversity of visitors and changes in trends, the company is preparing to diversify the offer, from its concepts of restaurants to its stores.

"Today's passenger seeks a lot of attention. We have been studying the behavior of passengers to define a new offer of dealers that fit that new business model. We pursue with it to temper our offer in line with the results of the study, to achieve a more refreshing and productive offer," Hernández affirmed.

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