After months of delays Quito, Ecuador’s, new Mariscal Sucre airport in the northeast suburb of Tababela, 37 km from the northern part of Quito, will finally open on Wednesday, February 20th at 9 am. February 19th the “old airport,” which is within the city of Quito, will close down at 7 pm. The new airport is a modern terminal, equipped with a runway length of 4,100 meters (1,000 feet longer than the current airport, making it one of the longest in Latin America) and it will be able to handle 6 million passengers a year with 44 take-offs and landings per hour. The airport will be 1-1/2 hours from the main hotel areas in Quito.
The new terminal should be very nice, and it has 60 check-in counters and a designated area for the Galapagos check-in process. There are ample restrooms, comfortable gate lounges and waiting areas. Initially there will be over 900m2 of duty free shopping and more than 20 commercial stores including restaurants, news agents and souvenir shops. There is also a business lounge which will be accessible for a fee of US$ 20. In the second half of the year 2013, a shopping center will open which will be connected to the terminal building.
The biggest issue for travelers, however, will be that the new airport is approximately 1 1/2 hours from the main hotel areas in Quito (even farther to the old town hotels), adding lots of travel time and expense to get to hotels. While there are a few small hotels within 30 minutes of the airport, many people will still want to stay in Quito. New roads are being built to the airport to speed travel time, but they won’t be finished until the middle of 2014. During peak travel times it could take as long as 2 hours to get from your hotel to the airport.
In addition to more travel time, the costs of transfers and taxis will be going up dramatically. Taxis which now cost $5-8 will be $25-40, and transfer rates will nearly double.
One good transportation option is the new Airport Express Bus departing from the old airport in Quito. This nonstop service goes directly to the new airport and the buses are equipped with GPS, WiFi Internet and guides. The buses will operate every 30 minutes, 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. During peak air-traffic hours, buses will depart every 20 minutes. Tickets can be purchased online and also at booths of both airports. The price for this service will be US$ 8 per route. On this service you will be allowed to take 1 piece of luggage up to 23kg, and one piece of hand luggage. For additional luggage, there is a fee of US$ 2 and for over sized luggage the fee is US$ 2.50.
In the future many people may choose to stay at Cotopaxi or Otavalo instead of going into Quito, but at the moment those roads are under repair and it could take more than two hours each way to the airport. These are still viable options for those wanting to see some of Ecuador but not wanting to spend time traveling into Quito.
The Papallacta Hot Springs will also be a great option for relaxing place to stay upon arrival or before departing Ecuador.
For those only going to the Galapagos, and not spending any extra days in Ecuador, you may even choose to just fly in and out of Guayaquil (GYE) to save travel time and expense. Many flights from Quito to the Galapagos stop in Guayaquil, so the Guayaquil – Galapagos flight is shorter than flying from Quito.
Finally with the new airport the airport taxes will increase. The tax increase for national flights will $8.17 and the tax increase for international flights will be $15.86. Tickets issued after February 5th, 2013, already include this tax but tickets issued before this date do not. Passengers traveling through the new airport with a ticket that does not include the new airport tax will have to pay the difference at the check-in counter. Some airlines may accept credit card payments, but others will only accept cash payments. You should carry sufficient cash to be on the safe side and avoid delays during the check-in process.
We can’t wait to hear from the lucky travelers who get to break in this new airport. Please post up your comments after traveling through the new airport.