After more than a dozen years of promises, Ecuador’s new US$700 million Quito International Airport opened last week, replacing the city’s 52-year-old Quito Mariscal Sucre airport. The new airport is located 24 kilometers east of the capital.
The old city center airport appeared regularly in “Top 10 scariest landings” polls and articles. When it opened, in 1960, this airport was surrounded by fields and Quito’s population numbered but 350,000. In the decades to follow, Quito’s population grew to about 2.2 million and the city grew around the urban airport. Today, the landing strip is surrounded by residential areas whose occupants had to listen to the roar of jet engines around the clock.
The racket of the planes sometimes woke us at dawn,” explains one local. “The windows of the house would rattle like they would shatter. The airport has been a bad neighbor,” she continues, “a very dangerous neighbor.”
The new airport is 10 times the size and boasts the longest runway in South America. As well as increased safety, it allows for more direct flights from long-haul destinations, such as Spain.
On the other hand, while the old Mariscal Sucre airport could be reached from downtown Quito in around 20 minutes, the new airport will be more than an hour away when the highway to it is completed. Meantime, while road work continues, it’s a two-hour commute.