Airline Gold Rush: How New Tulum Airport Could Steal 25% of Cancun’s Traffic

There’s a new airline gold rush down in Mexico, with U.S. carriers lining up to fly to the Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport near Tulum. It’s 79 miles from the current Cancun airport, Enilria writes that an aviation study finds that this new airport could compete for a full quarter of Cancun’s passengers.

Already American, Delta, United, and Spirit have announced service from the airport, which is slated to open December 1 and to become available to international passengers in late March. With American’s Dallas and United’s Houston service growing to twice daily, there are a dozen flights by U.S. carriers planned for the 12 gate airport:

93% of the area’s air passengers are tourists, and the bet is that there’s a never ending supply of upper middle class Americans headed to yoga retreats.

Based on where passengers are traveling to, it’s estimated that U.S. – Tulum demand could support 30 flights per day. The airport is smaller and easier to traverse than Cancun. And a new rail connection will help facilitate travel as well.

We should also mention there are imminent plans for a train between TQO and CUN with the hotels along the route and construction is very far along on the train. In fact, the train could open shortly. The train has the potential to tilt things even further toward the new airport in Tulum.

Surely the ramp up here is too fast, no matter the eventual demand. Airlines are getting in to secure spots in the small airport. Domestically, Viva Aerobus has announced 5 cities from Tulum and Aeromexico Connect is planning Mexico City flights.

Planning for the airport has been on and off again over the past dozen years. Initially the López Obrador administration prioritized the train over the airport, but this airport may turn out to be a much better project to have green lit than the new Mexico City airport and the new Mexicana Airlines.

Eventually we should see flying from hubs like New York JFK, Boston, Denver… and probably more from Delta than just Atlanta. Southwest also has yet to announce Tulum service, and both JetBlue and Frontier may see markets there as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Because it hasn’t even opened yet. There are VERY few flights scheduled. While 12/1’is the official opening Match is considered the full opening. Airlines have set routes making them millions into Cancun why mess with that right? It will take time as airlines wait to see which way the winds blow.

  2. I don’t have access to the numbers but that really does seem like an awful lot of flights to start with. If/when more hotels are built then the airport can really hit it’s stride but I suspect this is going to be a bit like when the Obama administration opened up Cuba flights and every airline fought for routes, many of which ended up being dropped.

  3. It will undoubtedly be a relief for the Cancun airport, my question is, if this is actually a benefit or will it rather affect the airport by reducing its demand,

    Although it will no longer be overwhelmed by its operation all the time, which is good in terms of logistics, on a monetary level what will be its impact?

  4. I think that a good strategy and something that the Cancun airport has been demanding for several years is a strategic expansion that allows for a more fluid operation. Even with the opening of the new airport, I think that an expansion to the Cancun airport would be very good.

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