Service quality and leading-edge technology improve the regional competitive position of Panama's Tocumen International Airport, as Paul Harris reports.
In 2007, Tocumen Airport handled almost 3.8 million passengers, a 17 percent increase over 2006. While one-third of these were arrivals to, and another third departures from Panama, one-third were passengers in transit to other destinations in the region. “Transit is really important,” says communications director Thays Dominguez.
But it is not just passenger numbers that are growing; cargo movement grew 15 percent in 2007 from the 82,000 tonnes handled in 2006.
The Airport began a US$100 million modernization process in 2004 that was conceived following studies performed by the International Civil Aviation Organization into Panama having an international airport that could fulfill the needs and requirements of the country’s role in the international air transport market.
It is now one of the few airports in Latin America that has two functioning runways, including the main runway that is 3,050 meters long and is used mainly for commercial flights, while the old runway is used for cargo or private flights, and as a back-up for commercial flights.
To improve passenger service and comfort, the new passenger terminal building is a modern design that reflects the latest trends in airport architecture, complete with top-of-the-line equipment and systems that strengthened its operational capacity.
Operational capacity was improved through the renovation of existing jetways and the installation of eight new jetways to provide a total of 22 that adjust to the plane’s size and height. Other improvements included new security systems, cameras, X-ray machines and metal detectors from a range of suppliers including the Wisa Group, Mota Group, Tenma Group, Zortek, Gateway and LG.
Now, having completed a modernization and upgrade, talk is once again turning towards expansion, with a new plan being drawn up for a new terminal. “This is still at the design stage so there is nothing concrete at the moment and no real information that I can share,” he says.
Infrastructure investment and passenger service are keys for the continued growth of Tocumen as a regional air transport hub. “Our vision is to be the best airport in the region, know for its operational safety, for the excellence of its passenger and cargo services, and to be a center of new business opportunities,” says Dominguez.