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First Look: Inside Tulum’s Brand-New Airport

Set to open on December 1, Mexico's newest commercial airport could be a game-changer for the tourism-driven region.

Tulum Airport’s air traffic control tower (Photo: Mara Lezama / Quintana Roo government)

Tulum International Airport (TQO) is set to welcome its first revenue flight on Friday, Dec. 1. Located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, the airport is a new fixture in a hot spot for tourists, cutting down on the 80-mile drive from Cancun.

Beginning in early December, Mexican airlines Aeromexico and Viva Aerobus will start service to Mexico City. According to Cirium Diio schedule data, Viva Aerobus flight 9360 is set to be the airport’s first arrival at 11:15 a.m. local time from Mexico City’s Felipe Angeles International Airport (NLU). Aeromexico flight 592 will arrive shortly after at 11:35 a.m. from Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX).

The airport received its first test flight on Tuesday, Nov. 28. According to the Riviera Maya News, Aeromexico sent a Boeing 737-800 from Mexico City (MEX).

Aeromexico’s first test flight into Tulum Airport. (Photo: FlightRadar24)

In the U.S., airlines have been lining up to serve the brand-new airport. Delta, United and American have planned service from their respective hubs. Ultra low-cost-carrier (ULCC) Spirit also announced plans to serve Tulum from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Orlando (MCO).

The terminal building at Tulum’s new airport (Photo: Mara Lezama / Quintana Roo government)

Who Operates Tulum Airport

Starting in the late 1990s, the Mexican government worked to privatize many of the country’s major airports. Fast forward to today and most of Mexico’s airports are privately operated. For example, Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR) operates nine airports in southeast Mexico, including Cancun International Airport (CUN).

The Mexican government appears to be bucking this trend with its newer airports, though. Tulum Airport will be operated by the country’s military, joining Mexico City’s Felipe Angeles International Airport and a handful of others. El Financiero recently reported that the army will now control 12 airports throughout Mexico.

Inside the terminal building at the new Tulum Airport (Photo: Mara Lezama / Quintana Roo government)

Earlier this week, Quintana Roo Governor Mara Lezama shared that the new Tulum Aiport will have its own Foreign Relations Office. “It’s an office that we are we’re working on. Right now I have a meeting with General (Gustavo) Vallejo (in charge of the airport construction), but it will be a reality,” she said to Riveria Maya News in an interview.

Governor Lezama shared photos of the new airport on her official Facebook page last week.

Inside the terminal building at the new Tulum Airport (Photo: Mara Lezama / Quintana Roo government)

How Big Could the New Airport Become

The airport itself is built on 1,200 hectares – or roughly five square miles – of land, boasting a 12,000-foot runway and 12 gates. There will also be a multipurpose military and first-responder base on the airfield.

According to Governor Lezama, the new airport can accommodate up to 5.5 million passengers per year. The government also says the construction project alone has created over 15,000 jobs in the region.

The terminal building at Tulum’s new airport (Photo: Mara Lezama / Quintana Roo government)

One study from consultancy group ASM says that Tulum’s new airport could receive 25% of Cancun International Airport’s (CUN) service to the U.S. Per Cirium Diio data, U.S. airlines are scheduled to operate up to 110 weekly flights to Tulum once service begins in late March 2024.

The new airport’s terminal appears to have artfully-designed fixtures. (Photo: Mara Lezama / Quintana Roo government)

The new airport is set to be a game-changer for the state, making Quintana Roo the only state in Mexico to have four international airports, the governor said. It will join Cancun (CUN) and Cozumel (CZM) with current international service. While it may be equipped to handle international flights, Chetumal International Airport (CTM) does not currently have any planned.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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