Aviation in El Salvador - All Change in San Salvador

El Salvador International Airport (SAL) may be a fairly young facility compared with many other gateways around the world having only been constructed in the late 1970s to replace Ilopango International Airport as the Central American country’s sole commercial airport.  However, over the past year it has witnessed significant change as first its largest carrier TACA was integrated into Colombian flag carrier Avianca and now operates under the Avianca Central America brand, and then in mid-January El Salvador President Mauricio Funes announced in San Salvador's Presidential House that the airport would be renamed Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport with immediate effect.

The new branding will be formally introduced during the remainder of the existing Presidential term although the previous names of Comalapa International Airport and Cuscatlán International Airport are likely to remain in informal use. It has been changed as part of a major ongoing redevelopment of the airport, the first phase of which is due for completion this summer.

Like many airports across the region the rapid growth in air demand has left the original infrastructure in need of significant improvements. In order to meet growing demand airport operator, Comisión Ejecutiva Portuaria Autónoma (CEPA) is initially making upgrades to the existing terminal structure at SAL but revealed a four-phase $492.7 million project that will run between 2014 and 2032 as part of a revised masterplan launched in December last year.

Although this does not include the construction of a new terminal structure it will significantly expand the existing building and boost passenger capacity in the first phase (2014 -2017) to 3.6 million and ultimately to 6.6 million by 2032 when the existing number of gates will more than double from a current 17 to over 40.

A look at schedule data for the past five years shows the recent growth in activities at SAL. After hovering around the 1.8 million outbound seats during the 2000s, the airport passed the two million departure seats milestone in 2011 and will exceed 2.5 million for the first time this year. In fact capacity has risen 45.3 per cent since 2009 with growth of 9.5 per cent last year and an expected 11.3 per cent rise this year.

Avianca’s control of the local business is even stronger when you also add the flights of Costa Rican carrier LACSA (also owned by Avianca), TACA’s old Peruvian operation and Avianca’s mainline business, growing to 76.2 per cent in 2013 and 80.2 per cent this year. Other operators at SAL include US carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines, Mexican carrier Aeromexico Connect and Panama City-based Copa Airlines, while Iberia provides a non-stop link to the Spanish capital, Madrid.

According to estimated data the number of O&D passengers travelling internationally from and to El Salvador in 2013 was 1.4 million, up 1.8 per cent on the figure recorded in 2008. Avianca had an estimated 52.8 per cent share of this international traffic, followed by United Airlines (15.3 per cent), American Airlines (8.8 per cent), Delta Air Lines (4.8 per cent) and Aviateca (4.7 per cent).

Although the top ten O&D international markets from and to El Salvador have not changed over the past five years, there have been some notable changes in position with markets such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama with lesser O&D flows, while Canada, Colombia and Honduras have witnessed rising O&D flows. The US continues to be by far the largest market for passengers to and from El Salvador with O&D demand up 10.5 per cent between 2008 and 2013, increasing marketshare to 69.3 per cent.

Estimated O&D Demand From And To El Salvador (bi-directional international O&D passengers)

2013

2008

Rank

Destination

Estimated O&D Demand

% Traffic Share

Rank

Destination

Estimated O&D Demand

% Traffic Share

1

United States

975,652

69.3 %

1

United States

883,008

63.8 %

2

Honduras

57,046

4.1 %

2

Costa Rica

68,446

4.9 %

3

Mexico

53,647

3.8 %

3

Mexico

57,259

4.1 %

4

Canada

44,262

3.1 %

4

Nicaragua

55,790

4.0 %

5

Costa Rica

42,186

3.0 %

5

Honduras

53,474

3.9 %

6

Nicaragua

33,344

2.4 %

6

Panama

50,405

3.6 %

7

Panama

33,268

2.4 %

7

Guatemala

49,826

3.6 %

8

Colombia

26,838

1.9 %

8

Canada

36,990

2.7 %

9

Spain

20,074

1.4 %

9

Spain

20,040

1.4 %

10

Guatemala

19,031

1.4 %

10

Colombia

15,248

1.1 %


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