Overall passenger traffic decreased by 0.9% last year compared to 2016 in the six Colombian airports managed by Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR), a Mexico City-based airport operator. The drop represented a fall from 10.14 million passengers in 2016 to 10.05 million passengers in 2017, according to the company’s figures.
The biggest decrease, in terms of domestic passengers, was seen at José María Córdova International Airport, which is located in Rionegro and services Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia. In raw figures, the 2017 total there came in at 6.04 million passengers compared to 6.13 million serviced in 2016, according to ASUR.
Including international traffic, Jose Maria Córdova was only down by 0.7% in 2017. International passengers actually increased year over year from 1.35 million in 2016 to 1.39 million last year.
And while the firm did see its traffic hold steady at Olaya Herrera Airport — its other, smaller Medellín airport — drops were also seen at El Caraño Airport in Quibdo (-6.1%), Antonio Roldán Betancourt Airport in Carepa (-3.0%), and Los Garzones Airport in Monteria (-2.1).
Las Brujas Airport in Corozal, which with just 81,661 passengers serviced in 2017 is by far the smallest airport operated by ASUR in Colombia, was the one positive standout with 14.3% passenger growth.
More than specific airport issues, the largest cause of the decline was a prolonged strike by more than half of the Colombian pilots working for Avianca, the largest airline in Colombia. The carrier canceled thousands of flights this fall as negotiations stalled and a legal battle severely disrupted operations for months.
“In Colombia, passenger traffic was impacted by a strike of local pilots at a major international carrier,” said ASUR in a statement.
With no labor battle to contend with in Mexico, the company had better results. Overall passenger traffic rose by 9.3% in the nine airports operated by ASUR in its home country.
Cancún International Airport — by far the company’s busiest location — welcomed more than 23.60 million passengers, up from just over 21.42 million in 2016. ASUR also saw positive numbers at its three next largest airports in Mexico: Merida (10.5% growth), Veracruz (4.0%), and Villahermosa (1.6%).
The company also manages the largest airport in Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, which saw a downturn that was particularly pronounced in December as the U.S. territory continued to suffer from the after-effects of the devastation that Hurricane Maria wrought on the island.
Overall passenger traffic was down by 6.9% in 2017, falling to 8.41 million from 9.03 million in 2016. “The decline in passenger traffic at San Juan Airport reflects the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the island on September 21,” stated the company.
Correction: This article originally stated that traffic at ASUR-operated airports in Colombia fell by 5.2% in 2017. This was due to inaccurate data reported by ASUR, which was later corrected in a subsequent report.
Photo: Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Rionegro, Colombia. (Credit: SajoR)