Air France announced it would start Airbus A380 service from Paris to Mexico City in July 2015 (News – August 29, 2015). The airline faced challenges while working with local airport authority in preparation to become the world’s first to commence double decker operations on January 12, 2016.
Airbus A380 and Air France
AF438 arrived at Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México (Mexico City International Airport) slightly ahead of schedule at 1822 (622pm) local time. The journey took 11 hours 52 minutes with the aircraft passing through United Kingdom, Canada and USA en route to Mexico’s capital city.
From January 12 to March 26, 2016, Air France will operate the Airbus A380 thrice weekly as it monitors and tweaks operational challenges. Boeing 777s are deployed for other flights between the two capital cities. The SkyTeam member envisions daily service would commence on March 27, 2016.
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“It took us one year to get a commitment from the airport, the infrastructure wasn’t ready before”, says Air France’s Director General for Mexico, Eric Caron.
The sixty year old airport installed one upper deck boarding bridge at gate 34 located at the eastern end of Terminal 1 to accommodate the new aircraft operation. Since the gate was not designed with the A380 in mind, there was not enough space to host the passengers in the waiting area. Boarding took much longer to complete as lines formed near the podium.
After commercial service began on January 12, 2016, departure was delayed between 10 to 56 minutes. Average delay was 36 minutes. While boarding can be managed better by starting the process earlier, the bigger challenge is taxing through the airport.
Mexico City International Airport is very compact and features many taxiways that are too narrow for the Airbus A380. As the aircraft leaves the gate and moves on its own, it follows a dedicated airport vehicle through a long route to the runway. This adds about 25 minutes of taxi time prior to taxi off. Unfortunately, there are no plans currently to widen taxiways to improve travel time.
Mexico City is in the process of finalizing plans to build a new international airport an the outskirts of the city. Foster + Partners, FR-EE (Fernando Romero Enterprise) and NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants) won the design competition back in 2014. While construction has not officially began, the Mexican government hopes to finish construction within five years.
This new airport will be capable of handling 50 million passengers initially with 3 parallel runways. Once it is built out, the mega structure would have a maximum capacity of 120 million with 6 parallel runways. It has been designed to handle all aircraft types including the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777X from the start.
While Air France may be the first to bring the Airbus A380 into Mexico, there are others that are also interested. They include:
- Lufthansa German Group (LH) from Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
- Emirates (EK) from Dubai International Airport (DXB)
As space is constrained currently, there may be difficulties accommodating both airlines.