Rise in Airlift Fuels Cancun Travel

Sun shining down on a beach between cliffs in Cancun Mexico
Photo by goglik83/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Travel to Cancun is booming, fueled by major new airlift to the destination.

According to data provided to Travel Agent by the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, arrivals to Cancun International Airport increased an average of 9.6 percent last year, rising from approximately 1.57 million to 1.83 million domestic arrivals and from 4.40 million to 4.72 million international arrivals. In terms of flights, the facility rose from a total of 4,523 international flights in 2016 to 4,740 international flights in 2017.

Part of the rise in airlift is due to the opening of the new Terminal 4, which took place in October of that year. All told the new facility added 9 million passengers to the airport’s capacity, for a total of 25 million. The new terminal hosts airlines including Lufthansa, Frontier Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Sun Country Airlines, Thomas Cook, Air Transat, Condor, WestJet, Air Europa, Southwest Airlines, Interjet, Aeromexico and Thomas Cook Scandinavia. Looking ahead, the airport is poised to expand even more with another new terminal, Terminal 5. Construction on that project is set to kick off at the end of this year or the beginning of 2019.


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Much of the new airlift has been on low-cost carriers, such as Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines. In 2016 Southwest began flying between Los Angeles and Cancun, in addition to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, and this summer the airline added service between Cancun and Pittsburg. Similarly, last year Spirit Airlines added daily nonstop routes to Cancun from Chicago O’Hare and Baltimore BWI, adding to its current service from Dallas / Forth Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale and Houston.

The rise in airlift has coincided with a major surge in travel to Cancun. The airport saw a record-setting Easter travel period this year, with 2.8 million visitors arriving, up 14.5 percent from the same period last year. Additionally, surrounding resort towns and cities reported a 100 percent hotel occupancy during that period.

Looking ahead, Cancun is poised to be the most popular international travel destination this summer, according to the latest survey from Allianz Global Assistance. This year is the second in a row it’s topped the list.

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