Year-long closure of Loja airport for repairs will mean more air traffic for Cuenca and long road trips south

Mar 23, 2011

A one-year project to resurface and upgrade the Camilo Ponce Enríquez Airport in Catamayo will mean increased air traffic in Cuenca and long trips by car and bus to Loja and the tourist town of Vilcabamba. The airport work is scheduled to begin in July or August.

The airport, which currently handles two daily Tame Air round-trip jet flight, one to Quito and the other to Guayaquil, serves an average of 200 passengers a day. According to airport director César Jaramillo Chamba, the resurfacing of the 1,836 meter runway will allow more flights and larger jets. Currently, the runway has bulges and undulations in several places, causing concerns about safety. The project, which will also see construction of a new control tower, will cost 12 million dollars.

Although most Loja-bound air passengers will come through Cuenca, Chamba says that some will fly into the new airport in Santa Rosa, near Machala.

Chamba says that during the 12 to 14 months that Enríquez Airport is closed, tour companies will provide special buses to transport passengers between Loja and Cuenca. “There will be some inconvenience when the airport is closed but when the repairs are complete our passengers will appreciate the difference.”


WIF-FI COVERAGE TO BE EXPANDED IN CITY PARKS

Cuenca Telecommunications Director, Juan Cordova, says his office plans to extend Internet wi-fi services to more than half of the city´s parks by the end of 2011.

Currently, wi-fi coverage in Cuenca serves about 23,000 customers but the expanded coverege will provide service to 34,000 by year´s end. According to Cordova, his department hopes to reach more than 50,000 users by 2013. He says the broadband service will operate at 350 kbps speed.


TRAVEL AGENCIES COMPLAIN ABOUT DELAYED AND CANCELLED FLIGHTS

Sonia Calderon, chief executive of Cuenca´s Chamber of Tourism, says that poor air service is affecting the bottom line of Cuenca tour agencies. “I hear of many cases where agencies have lost sale of $2,000 and $3,000 packages because of unreliable service provided by the airlines."

Mostly, she complains about the unresponsiveness to passengers whose flights are cancelled or delayed. “Visitors find that the airlines are slow to replace flights and even to help make other arrangements," she says. 

Director of the Cuenca Aviation Corporation, Diego Andrade, says that bad weather is the main culprit in delays and cancellations. The weather caused dozens of schedule changes in January and February, he says. “I understand that this causes economic losses and frustration for passengers and we are in consultation with airlines to make amends for this.”

He adds: “We are doing everything we can to avoid these problems and understand that they create a bad image for Mariscal Lamar airport but customers need to understand that delays happen all over the country."

A passenger survey conducted last fall found that AeroGal received the most complaints while Lan received the fewest.


PRELIMINARY STUDIES FOR NEW LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM ARE COMPLETED

French engineers have completed preliminary work on Cuenca´s proposed light rail system. The engineers were in town in February to conduct feasibility and environmental studies and to analyze potential routes that can handle tram traffic.

A preliminary report has identified four streets as corridors in the historic district: Mariscal Sucre, Simón Bolívar, Gran Colombia and Mariscal Lamar. Lead Project engineer by Jean-Louis Balat said that a final decisión will be based on mobility studies being conducted by the city of Cuenca.

“This project is considering a number of factors including bus routes and vehicular traffic patterns. Alternative mobility does not work unless you consider the transportation patterns and needs of the population,” he says.

In addition to improving transport in the historic district, tram lines would run parallel to Cuenca´s four rivers, Rios Tarqui, Yanuncay Tomebamba and Machángara.

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