For years, it has been apparent the there is not much future for Toncontin International Airport in Tegucigalpa. Both government and private sector have talked about the need for a change of location. When Taca Airlines flight 390 crash landed on May 30, 2008, the government closed the airport for jet planes, allowing only turboprop planes into the airport. This of course was the motive of a huge row between the citizens of Tegucigalpa and the government. After a few weeks, the airport was back up and running.
Eventually, the runway at the Soto Cano Air Force Base in Comayagua got the green flag to transform into a commercial airport. There was a lot of politics and diplomacy to take place to have the proper authorization. As unofficially, the base was a joint USA Honduras base. The new Palmerola International airport, is to receive its first international flights this upcoming month of November. Palmerola International Airport is already a game changer. For years, airlines would prefer to fly into the San Pedro Sula Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport than into Toncontin. Already, airlines like Aeromexico and Spirit Air have regular schedules starting before the end of the year into Palmerola International Airport.
Palmerola International Airport will Replace Toncontin International Airport
Slowly, the traffic from Toncontin International Airport with code TGU will move to Palmerola International Airport with code XPL. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to close Toncontin. There is talk about converting it into a regional airport that will offer service between Tegucigalpa and the nearby capital cities of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as local service within Honduras, it is probably in the best interest of the operator of both airports to consolidate into a single airport.
Palmerola Intenational Airport with its 2.4 km long runway will also allow become an important cargo facility. Currently, Toncontin Airport has many limitations, due to its short runway, and difficult approach. This is expected to make of this central area of Honduras an important logistical hub. This will result in increased infrastructure and development of the area. Currently Palmerola International Airport is 73 km away from Tegucigalpa, via a well-maintained CA-5 highway. Although there is talk of a new, shorter highway that will reduce travel time, I really do not see that happening any time soon. A one hour transfer from Tegucigalpa to the new airport seems unacceptable to citizens in Tegucigalpa, however, it is not uncommon for airports to be one hour away from the cities they serve.
It will be interesting to see if Toncontin International Airport does indeed stay open as a regional airport. I believe it will not be a cost effective operation and that it will soon close its doors.