Quito's much anticipated new international airport is scheduled to open February 20, 2013. If all goes according to plan, the new airport will be operating Wednesday at 9:00 AM with the old closing its doors the evening before (February 19, 2013) at 7:00 PM. The new Mariscal Sucre Airport is ten times larger than the original airport. It welcomes new flight routes from the US and Europe, boasts one of the world's longest runways and has the capability to serve 6 million travelers a year. Last week, Betty Jaramillo, from our local Quito office made a visit to the new facility with CAPTUR (Ecuadorian Chamber of Tourism) to get a better understanding of the airport's layout, services and operations. It's big, modern and looking sharp.
The new facility replaces the original airport built in 1960. Surrounded by the city and mountains, the old structure left little room for much-needed expansion. Quito's international airport is one of the busiest in South America. Work on the new airport began in 2006 and was initially slotted to open in October of 2012.
What This Means for Ecuador Travel
Quito's New Mariscal Sucre International Airport is located approximately 12.5 miles (20km) to the northeast of Quito in the Tababela district. However, from the north-central region of Quito, the distance is closer to 22 miles (35km). Currently one major highway stretches from Quito to the new airport, which influences transfer times between the two destinations. Traffic is an issue. Additional highways are under construction, but until then travelers on Ecuador tours should prepare for close to a 90 minute drive if staying in central Quito. Taxis from new airport will offer their service to Quito through a counter ticket purchase system with pre-established rates that will vary depending on the passenger's destination. Look for the taxi service counter at the airport; it is located by the information desk. Rates are not yet published but are estimated to run about US$30-40. Private transfers are of course available as well. For travelers overnighting in Quito en route to other destinations, we recommend accommodations on the northeast side of the city to reduce transfer times.
The new airport is also connected by other highways to Ecuador's north (Otavalo, Pinsaqui is roughly a 90 min transfer), south (Cotopaxi, Cienega or San Agustin at 90 min) and east (Papallacta, Termas at 60 min).
Ecuador and Quito have made frequent headlines in the recent months. Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveler named them as must-sees for 2013. United Airline's inflight magazine highlighted Quito in their ongoing feature Three Perfect Days. The opening of the new international airport is timed appropriately to welcome new visitors to explore Ecuador's best.