Aerostar inaugurates new $14M Terminal D at LMM Airport
Aerostar, the company that has been operating the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM) through a public-private partnership with the government of Puerto Rico since 2013, announced the inauguration of Terminal D, at a cost of $14 million.
The facility, which was once operated exclusively by American Airlines and had been shuttered for more than a decade, will now house eight boarding gates — five for regional airlines and three for larger capacity aircraft for domestic and international routes, Jorge Hernández, CEO of Aerostar, said during a news conference at the renovated facility.
So far, Silver, Cape Air, and Air Antilles have moved their operations into the remodeled terminal.
“We’re in talks with certain airlines to reach an agreement to move one of them to begin operating in this new area, at the three remaining doors. The regional operators are already in place,” he said.
As for the 126,595 square-foot terminal itself, improvements to the area that is already in use included “changing the flooring, the installation of a new biometric facial recognition system to simplify the international boarding and arrival process. Several food and beverage concessions will be inaugurated soon,” he said.
A portion of the terminal is currently vacant, but Hernández said that as passenger traffic increases with the opening of new flights and routes, it is possible to fill up the area with more carriers. Last year, the LMM broke passenger traffic records, with 10.3 million of them using Puerto Rico’s main airport, he said.
“That is 24% more than in 2013, and we’re projecting an increase of between 4% and 5% this year,” he said.
Since taking over the airport’s operation 10 years ago, Aerostar has invested about $275 million in improvements in and outside the terminals, runways, and other facilities. It currently generates 400 direct jobs and about 1,700 indirect at the airport, counting airline employees and employees at the different restaurants and shops.
The next five years
Looking ahead, the company — whose contract with the government still has 30 years to go — has a pipeline of projects for the next five years that call for rebuilding runway 8:26 starting later this year and which will take 12 months to complete; designing and expanding Terminal A, which is known as the jetBlue terminal, which will begin next year and culminate in late 2025 or early 2026; remodeling Terminal B and other terminals to round out the airport’s renovation, Hernández said.
Aerostar is also contemplating adding a new bridge connecting the multi-story parking facility with Terminal A and completely renovate the Tony Santana Ave., which provides access to LMM’s cargo area, at a cost of $4.6 million.
“There’s another project to modernize and redefine the customs area, which was initially estimated at $3 million, and it now costs $9 million because of the increases costs that have been experienced since the pandemic,” he said.
During the unveiling of the new terminal, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi touted Aerostar’s management of the airport, saying “they have been with us in the hardest moments, during Hurricane María, working tirelessly to re-establish air traffic to and from our island, and during the pandemic, responsibly and with great cooperation in dealing with the challenges of keeping our residents and visitors safe.”
“It’s evident that Aerostar has been a collaborating partner, and during the past two years it has also been at the heart of a record resurgence in our tourism, breaking records in the number of passengers arriving on the island,” he said.
New emergency response center
Last week, Aerostar inaugurated the most modern operations monitoring and emergency response center in the Caribbean region at the LMM, at a cost of $1.5 million and equipped with the latest advances in airport security technologies.
The new Airport Control Operations Center, or AOCC, is a central piece in the security plan of Puerto Rico’s main airport, and replaces the older center, which had half the space of the current one and required updating its work tools to achieve greater efficiency in security tasks, he said.
The center, among other tasks, is responsible for monitoring all the areas that make up the airport. In addition, the general direction of the response to an emergency that occurs at the airport is run from this office and the measures that must be adopted are coordinated, so that they are executed simultaneously and strategically to guarantee the continuity of operations and preserve the safety of travelers, employees, and concessionaires.