The airport with the longest runway in the Caribbean could become municipal property if Gov. Luis Fortuño signs into law a Concurrent Resolution the Senate approved Monday turning it over to the Municipality of Aguadilla after nearly three decades under the central government’s jurisdiction.
The Rafael Hernández Airport spans an area of 1,600 acres and boasts the longest runway in the region, at 11,700 feet. It is also the second international airport in Puerto Rico, with about 500,000 passengers passing through the facility last year.
When filed in March 2009, the bill stated the reason behind the movement to take the facility off the Port Authority’s hands was to respond to “a serious claim by the private sector because the growth in passenger volume has not kept pace with hotel bookings.”
The bill said transferring the facility to the Municipality of Aguadilla would fuel the growth of the “Porta del Sol” tourist region, because as it stands, the airport is underserved.
“The approval of this transfer is an achievement of a Senate that works for the welfare and economic future of the people of the West,” said Sen. Luis Daniel Muñiz, who authored the resolution. “The efforts of Aguadilla Mayor Carlos Méndez and our legislative team have definitely paid off to give a boost to Porta del Sol.”
The Rafael Hernández Airport is split into several areas, with the North side dedicated to passenger traffic generated by airlines including JetBlue, Spirit and smaller regional carriers, such as PAWA, which serves the Dominican Republic. Earlier this year, the airport was chosen to launch a weekly charter service to Spain that was grounded after failing to generate the expected revenue and traffic.
The airport also hosts cargo carriers, such as FedEx, which two years ago announced plans to expand its service to at the airport to make it its Caribbean distribution hub.
Meanwhile, Economic Development and Commerce Secretary José A. Pérez-Riera announced early last month that the first phase of what will be the Strategic Development Project for the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla is also underway to turn it into the first airport in Puerto Rico with a Free Trade Zone designation. The application to the FTZ Board has been submitted.
An FTZ designation would boost the airport’s draw for increased commercial activity.