Major changes already underway at LMM airport
Despite not having yet completed the transition through which it will officially take over control of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina, Aerostar Holdings is already planning major changes for services available to passengers, mostly related to concessions and transportation.
During a meeting with the media after speaking before the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association Thursday, Aerostar CEO Agustín Arellano also confirmed that there are talks already underway to re-establish direct flights between San Juan and Mexico, with two airlines interested in offering the service.
Since signing the 40-year lease, Aerostar has been in talks with airport concessionaires to sort out which would stay and which would go.
“There’s a bit of everything going on. When there are changes, some will be favored and some won’t because contracts have long expired for some, while for a long time, others didn’t pay anything and will now have to pay,” Arellano said, noting Aerostar’s strategy calls for sharing profits with concessions rather than collecting lease fees for the space they take up at the airport.
“The modern way of operating an airport does not entail renting areas. The modern way of running an airport is by partnering in everything. We partner with the retailers to select the best options, based on what the passenger wants, not the business the person wants to set up,” he said. “The idea here is to accommodate all of those who have a contract in place.”
At present, there are 122 concessions operating at the LMM, and the goal is to increase that to 160. The retail outlets are organized under several umbrellas: food and drink concessions are under International Meal Co.; duty free shops are under Dufry; and retail shops are managed jointly between the owner and Aerostar.
“But they will be distributed differently than how they are now,” he said.
That’s because starting in November, Aerostar will begin remodeling the airport, requiring full areas to be shut down and tenants relocated. The first area to undergo physical changes will be Terminal B, which will be shut down and its occupants will be moved to Terminal D, which is currently empty.
The entire airport makeover will take about a year, he said. The private operator has already begun some of the work, such as changing signs along the roads leading to the terminals and back toward the exits, as well as improving bathroom conditions.
Ground transportation and new airlines
Meanwhile, he addressed the issue of ground transportation, which at the airport is offered by taxis, private transportation and car rental companies.
“We’re going to regulate what has to do with pre-paid transportation, limos and VIP services,” he said. “All of the transportation elements have been self-regulating in an irregular way, not according to how they should operate based on airport standards, so we’re going to have to work on that.”
Taxis are excluded, as the government has jurisdiction over that service.
In the reorganization, Arellano again said there will be no rate hikes, as Aerostar will also participate as partners in the transportation business.
Finally, Arellano said Aerostar is already in talks with several new airlines in Mexico to re-establish direct flights between San Juan, Mexico City and Cancún. Two carriers — MagniCharters and InterJet — would offer the service.
“International flight require agreements and the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval, and we’ve already submitted the application to them to allow those flights to begin,” Arellano said.