Aerostar Airport Holdings, operator of the Luis Muñoz María International Airport in San Juan, confirmed it has invested close to $70 million to repair Puerto Rico’s main air traffic hub, which sustained serious infrastructure damage in the hands of Hurricane María nearly a year ago.
The devastating storm destroyed more than 1 million square feet of the roof of the airport’s terminals and other areas, Aerostar CEO Agustín Arellano said.
Immediately after the hurricane, all airlines significantly reduced their flights in and out of the island, with passenger traffic falling by nearly 30 percent, he said.
However, nearly a year after the event, Aerostar has “managed to rebuild about 90 percent of the structure, air operations have been re-established similar to the schedules in effect prior to the hurricane and passenger traffic has regained its usual pace,” Arellano said.
The post-María recovery has required a “special effort” for the company, which has completed 100 percent of repairs to Terminals A and B, while 90 percent of the work has been completed in boarding areas A, B and C, he said. Boarding area D will be completed this year.
Also in the works is establishing a new signaling system outside the terminals, which more than replacing the existing one, it will seek to improve vehicular traffic, as well as passenger experience, he said.
“One of the biggest problems we faced were constant blackouts, which aside from affecting equipment and delaying operations, caused inconveniences to passengers as we were unable to turn the air conditioning system back on,” Arellano said.
The airport’s 21 existing generators had to be used for the areas of security, check-in and airline terminals for the airport operation to continue, he said.
“Aware of the need to provide better conditions for passengers in the event of re-experiencing a lack of electricity, we invested close to $1 million in the acquisition of two new large-capacity emergency generators, that will keep the air conditioner going in specific areas, as well food and beverage concessions,” Arellano said.
“The LMM is back to normal and more prepared to face another phenomenon of this kind,” Arellano said. “Although the emergency plan with which faced a situation like María worked efficiently, we all learned lessons that have allowed us to update plans to make them even better.”
The plan calls for beefing up security at the airport and investing in technology, which Arellano said adds up to $3 million.
Finally, Arellano confirmed that the airport is still in talks with Uber, to allow drivers to pick up passenger. At present, Uber drivers are only allowed to drop off passengers. Negotiations should wrap up by next month, ahead of this year’s peak tourism season, he said.