Financial and human toll mounts as Cuenca airport faces a month-long closure

Jul 28, 2016 | 27 comments

According to Juan Fernandez, new director of Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport, 12,300 passengers on 128 canceled flights have been unable to reach Cuenca by air since a Tame jet skidded off a wet runway April 29. Tourism officials say that hotel bookings and meals served in local restaurants have dropped by almost 30% since the accident, costing the local economy tens-of-millions of dollars. Even more millions have been lost in fees and rents by the public airport corporation.

Cuenca's Mariscal La Mar Airport.

Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport.

The toll also includes two airport directors who have resigned in the 90 days since the accident, and the two pilots aboard the ill-fated Tame jet.

Things will get even worse when runway resurfacing work begins next month, says Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera. “But the good news is that we will finally fix the problem so the airport can return to normal operations,” he says. “This has been hard on all of us so I am pleased that we will soon be able to put this behind us.”

According to Cabrera, the runway work will begin between August 12 and 15, a week later than previously announced by Fernando Arteaga, the airport director who resigned two weeks ago. All airport operations will be suspended during the 30-day, $970,000 project.

Fernandez said Tuesday that the city and Latam and Tame airlines are making arrangement for bus or van service between the airport and the Guayaquil airport, with details to be disclosed before work begins.

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Meanwhile, the city is proceeding with legal action against the contractor who resurfaced the runway in February. Tests have shown that the work did not meet runway friction and drainage standards, a factor that may have contributed to the April accident.

In addition, municipal council members are demanding the results of the civil aviation investigation of the April accident. Specifically, they want to know if the Tame pilots were fired because of landing errors that led to the accident.

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