This is the second part of my article about the world’s most improved airports in 2014. My work is based on Airport Council International (ACI) awards announced in Montreal on 16th of February 2015. In the part 1 I have introduced the winners from Africa, Asia and Europe and now I will focus on the remaining three.
Latin America-Caribbean – Santo Domingo – Las Americas International Airport (SDQ)
Although Santo Domingo is the capital and the largest city of Dominican Republic, small town of Punta Cana (PUJ) in the easternmost part of the island holds the title for the busiest airport in this country by serving almost 6 million passengers in 2014. It is also the primary touristic destination known for its perfect beaches. Santo Domingo on the other hand is a large city of around 1 million inhabitants and almost 3 million metro area. It is also a cultural and economical center of the country. Las Americas International Airport handled almost 3,2 million passengers in 2014 which was 4% more then in 2013. The only other airport which exceeds 1 million travelers per annum, except for PUJ and SDQ, is Cibao International Airport (STI) located in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros in the northern part of the island.
Since 2007 Santo Domingo airport has a new comfortable terminal, which is able to accommodate the biggest passenger airplanes Airbus A380-800. Together with the extended runway and improved taxiways it is prepared for hosting largest airliners. The airport has many interesting routes from Europe, South America and North America. Iberia and Air Europa fly directly from Madrid (MAD) accordingly with Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A330-200. Air France Boeing 747-400 lands in SDQ 3 times per week from Paris (CDG) and 777-300ER adds another 3 connections from France capital with a stop in Punta Cana. Condor (DE) transports tourists from Frankfurt (FRA) and Jetairfly (TB) uses Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner to arrive at SDQ once a week. US carriers like American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United or US Airways also visit Santo Domingo.
Middle East – Amman – Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
Jordan is embedded in a very volatile environment. On the west, it borders with Israel and Palestine, which are in longtime conflict, on the north with Syria being impoverish by violent civil war and furious attacks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. On the east and south the situation is a little bit better as the country abuts to stable Saudi Arabian territories, but the northeast frontier with Iraq is still a threat. It is impressive that despite such inhospitable political situation, Jordan is able to remain a relatively calm and prosperous country, being classified by World Bank as a country of “upper middle income”. It is run by king Abdullah II of Jordan and in 2014 was able to achieve 3% of GDP growth. Although it has reasonable reserves of natural gas, these are not the volumes, which on its own would ensure bright future for this state. Recently, rich stockpiles of oil shale have been discovered under 60% of Jordan’s surface. This may be a good news for the country’s economy, as power plants based on this fuel would significantly reduce energy prices. However Jordanian government plans on reaching much higher then that. The country would like to seriously invest in renewable resources like solar cell panels and windmills to obtain 10% of its power from it by 2020. Additionally, Jordan relies heavily on tourism, which accounts for 10 percent of its GNP.
To ensure fluent travelers flow to the country, new impressive terminal was constructed at AMM airport. The building was designed by Foster+Partners and introduced absolutely tremendous comfort and service quality. It was built using advanced technology and relies on modern automation systems to make it more efficient and safe. Additionally, its structure embodies local rich heritage and blends it with modern architecture. For example the roof resembles traditional Bedouin tents. Terminal has a capacity of almost 9 million passengers per year and once the ongoing second phase of expansion is completed in 2016, it will be able to serve around 12 million passengers. This will enable smooth 6% annual growth till 2030. In 2014 Amman airport handled 7,1 million passengers which was 9% better result than a year before. Jordanian company called Airport International Group, under 25-year concession agreement, manages the whole airport complex. AMM is a hub not only for Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) but also for charter carriers Jordan Aviation (R5), Petra Aviation (9P), Royal Wings (RY) and Jordan second scheduled airline Royal Falcon (RL).
In the middle of 2014 RJ took the first delivery of Boeing 787-8. Currently the carrier operates five of these machines and one more is on order. These are of course the most interesting planes on Amman airport and are used on the shorter and longer routes. Especially interesting destinations are New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD) or Bangkok-Hong Kong (BKK-HKG) and Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur (BKK-KUL).
North America – San Antonio – San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
Since 2006 SAT passenger number has stagnated at about 8 million per year figure. In 2013 it was almost 8,3 million and in 2014 8,4 million which was the best result ever. It may be a true signal that after years of bland performance, the airport has found the right path for further development and growth.
San Antonio is located in the south Texas, about 300 km to the west from Houston, around 120 kilometers to the southwest from Austin, the state capital, and more than 400 kilometers to the south from Dallas. The city is an important center of health care, oil and military industries. San Antonio is the 2nd largest city in Texas by population, slightly exceeding 1,4 million inhabitants and being topped only by Houston with its 2,2 million. In the whole USA it is on the 7th place but according to United States Census Bureau its population is growing in the fastest pace among the TOP10 cities. Despite that, SAT is only 6th on the list of the busiest airports in Texas and around 45th in USA. That is why airport authorities are doing its best to change it and move up in this ranking, especially that the city attracts over 20 million tourists each year. San Antonio International is located in the northern part of the city. Roughly 94% of the handled passengers are domestic ones and only the small percentage is international travelers. The latter in whole are traveling to Mexico. There are 4 Mexican (Aeromexico, InterJet, Viva Aerobus and Volaris) and 2 US airlines (United and Southwest) flying to USA’s southern neighbor. SAT is not a hub for any of American airlines, it is however a focus city for United (UA), American Airlines (AA) and Southwest (WN). The busiest routes are Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Atlanta (ATL), Dallas (DAL) and Mexico City (MEX). The longest flight from SAT is to Seattle (SEA) and it lasts around 4 hours. The airport has 2 terminals. Terminal B was finished in 2010 and was designed by Parsons+Corgan. Terminal A was renamed from Terminal 1 to unify the nomenclature and underwent heavy renovation completed in the middle of 2014. This extensive modernization process made SAT very passenger friendly and comfortable.
In the end I would like to stress that all of the awarded airports described in this two-parts article are small to medium size. This leaves me with the impression that many of the passengers cherish fast service and convenience of less congested airports more than biggest mega hubs, which often causes delays and nervousness.