After years of bad news for Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport, things are looking up.
Since the beginning of March, the number of air travelers passing through the airport has doubled, from 200 to 400 a day. The extra traffic is the result of new flights and lower ticket prices, according to airport director, Carlos Jácome.
“The government support of air travel is the main factor in the improvement and we expect more improvement to follow,” he says. “The numbers are impressive but they will get even better,” he adds.
The two major airlines serving Cuenca, Latam and Tame, have increased their daily flights from eight to 12 since early March. In addition, another airline is planning to begin service to Guayaquil by early June.
The government help Jácome refers to is a 40 percent subsidy of aircraft fuel. The subsidy has led to reductions in airfare by 30 to 50 percent.
In addition to domestic travel, Jácome hopes that cross-border flights to Peru can be reestablished within the next year. In the past, flights from Cuenca flew to Lima, Cusco, Chiclayo and Tumbes. “This would provide a major boost to tourism and would have a positive ripple effect throughout the community,” Jácome said.
Jácome cautions that the growth depends on passenger usage. “For this to continue, people have to continue to support air travel. Even with the subsidy, airlines must fill seats to operate their routes.”
So far, passengers appear to be responding. Latam reports that they are flying at about 90 percent capacity and that flights near the weekend are often sold out.