Operations began today at the new international terminal of Cali’s Alfonso Bonilla Aragón airport. With a dozen flights scheduled, this high-traffic travel day marked the culmination of a long-planned investment of $75 million USD (230 trillion pesos) intended to upgrade the primary landing ground for flights arriving in western Colombia.
The first flight departed for Panama at 5:15 am to kick off the new concourse’s first day of service, during which officials projected the new wing to transport more than 2,600 passengers on 12 flights.
A test flight arrived at the terminal last Saturday, and an ceremony attended by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was held in March. But this weekend, in the midst of high travel season in Colombia during a month with several holidays, launched the true start of operations, including inaugural flights that arrived in Cali today from the United States, Spain, Panama, and Peru.
Officials say that, in part due to the new international terminal, which measures 19,600 square meters, the airport is now able to handle up to 10 million passengers per year.
Antonio Silva, manager of Aerocali, the organization that operates Alfonso Bonilla Aragón, said that the updates have transformed the airport into a modern facility more capable of managing large traffic loads and accommodating international travelers accustomed to the convenience widely available in Europe and the United States.
“We have state-of-the-art technology, state-of-the-art boarding bridges, an x-ray system, passenger information,” said Silva while addressing the media recently. “Everything has been checked and tested, and we hope that the Vallecaucans are very happy with all these new facilities.”
Luis Fernando Andrade, president of Colombia’s National Infrastructure Agency (ANI), and other public officials have been pleased to bring the new terminal online before the upcoming summit for the Pacific Alliance this week in Cali. Heads of state from each of the free-trade agreement member nations — Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Peru — are expected to attend, as are top foreign officials from various nations.
Andrade also said that some 1,400 direct and indirect jobs resulted from the large construction project, which was planned in order to allow for further expansion down the road if the demand for air travel in the region calls for it. “The building was constructed in such a way that it may be extended in the future according to the needs of the region and the country,” said Andrade. “It is a development that will allow efficient and secure modular growth.”
Currently, there are at least 10 different recurring direct flights that will use the new terminal. Avianca, the largest carrier in Colombia, will operate routes between Cali and Miami, New York, Madrid, Lima, San Salvador, and Guayaquil. Avianca also has set up a VIP lounge in the terminal.
Additionally, American Airlines has a flight between Cali and Miami, the Colombian arm of Copa Airlines will run a route to Panama City, and Ecuadorian carrier Tame will operate a flight to Esmeraldas. The discount Copa-owned airline Wingo will also offer a route between Cali and Panama City.
The airport expansion was one of many planned throughout the country. Bogotá is continuing on a plan to build an entire second airport in the capital, and the large airports in Medellín, Cartagena, and Barranquilla are all in various stages of expansion.
Simón Bolívar International Airport in Santa Marta has already completed a major renovation that turned it from an outdated, mostly open air terminal to a more modern facility that offers convenient service for tourists who want to visit the popular Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast.
Photo credit: National Infrastructure Agency