Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR), one half of the Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC consortium that won the bid to take over the management and operation of the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in Puerto Rico, said Wednesday it has obtained the necessary 139 certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, and is ready to start modernizing the airport.
Aerostar is a joint venture of Highstar Capital and ASUR, which on Wednesday was chosen to run the first major airport in the U.S. under the FAA’s Pilot Privatization Program, which was signed into law in 1996.
Aerostar will now begin to move forward with its plan to invest nearly $1.4 billion over the 40-year life of the lease to transform LMM into a “world-class airport gateway,” officials said.
“The FAA’s decision is a historic milestone in unleashing entrepreneurs and engendering innovation at America’s airports,” said Christopher Lee, Highstar’s founder and managing partner. “The U.S. at last joins a long and growing list of airports and seaports that are harnessing market forces to deliver first-class infrastructure, which America desperately needs to stay competitive in a global economy.”
As this media outlet previously reported, Aerostar made an upfront $615 million leasehold fee earlier today, with the goal of improving aviation services and the passenger experience while creating crucial jobs for Puerto Rico, followed by up to $240 million during the first three years of its lease to complete needed maintenance projects, improve passenger flow, upgrade roadways and technological infrastructure, reduce security wait times and improve and enhance airport retail offerings.
As the Ports Authority previously announced, it will begin working immediately with Aerostar through a transitional process that will last about six months.
“We look forward to transforming LMM into a best-in-class facility that fully meets the needs of both domestic and international travelers to further enhance its position as the busiest airport in the Caribbean,” added ASUR’s Chairman, Fernando Chico-Pardo. “Safety, security and efficiency are our top priorities, and we will bring a ‘customer first’ orientation to all that we do.”
LMM is the Caribbean’s busiest airport, handling more than 8.4 million passengers in fiscal year 2012.
“We are delighted by the FAA’s decision and look forward to strengthening Puerto Rico’s standing as a top cultural, commercial and tourism destination in the region,” added Agustin Arellano Rodriguez, president of Aerostar.
“We are committed to taking SJU to the next level to better serve the people of Puerto Rico and air travelers from around the world. We are grateful to the Governor of Puerto Rico and his team, along with the airlines, for their strong support and partnership as we begin to build together a new chapter in U.S. aviation history.”
According to Ports, LMM currently generates more than 8,000 direct and indirect jobs and recently opened the newly-constructed Terminal A, which is served by JetBlue Airways.
Aerostar expects at least 1,500 direct and indirect construction-related jobs to be created through its near-term capital investment program, which will be one of Puerto Rico’s largest construction projects. The transaction will create approximately 2,100 near-term direct jobs, once jobs in landscaping, cleaning and maintenance are included.
The Puerto Rico government has estimated that it will receive more than $2.6 billion in revenue and other benefits from the public-private partnership over the life of the lease.
Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla signed off on the deal Tuesday, despite opposition from segments of the island’s population, namely labor unions, airport employees and lawmakers.