The Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima

Peru is a “dream destination” for many, and so this popular South American country plays host to throngs of tourists from across the globe, who come to the country to hike the Inca Trail, climb the steps of Macchu Picchu, and explore the Amazon jungle. With over 200 airports scattered along the coastline and nestled between mountains inland, Peru’s destinations are generally quite easily accessible for tourists and locals alike. Whilst most of these airports are well-equipped to facilitate travellers, a few stand out in terms of the passenger traffic they can accommodate, and the facilities they offer.

Peru’s air transportation infrastructure provides an essential lifeline to the country’s almost 33 million people, who are scattered across its diverse terrain of sweeping coastlines, intimidating mountains, expansive plateaus and lush rainforest. This varied terrain can be challenging for airlines, but the country’s 5 international airports are well-positioned to serve its needs, whilst 22 smaller airports handle the additional domestic scheduled services.

We’ve picked our top airports in Peru, and we’ll be highlighting below why we believe they’re worth noting for aviation businesses.

Jorge Chavez International Airport (Lima)

Of the 5 airports with international connections, the capital’s Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima is the main gateway to the country and is situated 11 kilometers from the capital’s historic center. It is named after a famous Peruvian pilot who is credited with achieving the first air crossing of the Alps in a Bleriot XI monoplane.

With just over 22 million passengers passing through the airport in 2018, the airport links Peru with over 68 international destinations in 20 countries. It boasts a single 11,506 x 148-foot concrete runway at an elevation of 113 feet. And while the airport has undergone various expansions in previous years, the Peruvian government has scheduled it for further development with the intention of upgrading it to handle 40 million passengers per year by 2030.

At present, the airport is home to over 40 passenger and cargo airlines and features a hotel that is adjacent to the control tower, as well as a shopping center near the passenger terminal. In 2008 the airport opened Lima Cargo City, which was considered to be the most modern air freight logistics center in Latin America at the time and made it the capital of cargo operations in Peru.

Interestingly, the longest flight to and from Lima is operated by KLM on its Amsterdam route with a typical flight time of 12 hours and 25 minutes.

Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (Cusco)

Another notable international airport is Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport situated in the southeast of the country. It is named after the Peruvian pilot who was credited to be the first person to fly over the Andes. This airport is the first aerial entry point to the capital of the historic Inca empire and the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu. Due to its location in the middle of the city, it operates at a limited capacity for health and safety reasons, as houses and buildings border the runway.

It is a smaller airport, with limited facilities – but it’s no wonder since it is situated at 3 310 meters above sea level – making it one of the highest international airports in the world. This elevation level makes for challenging operating conditions for aircraft and the thin air can prove taxing to passengers and crew. Aircraft climb-outs from the runway are slower and more shallow than at lower elevation airports because the thin air reduces engine power. This also means that the runway is much longer because aircraft need more time on the ground to generate enough wing lift to take off.

With high tourist traffic, this airport reached it’s capacity years ago, seeing over 3.2 million passengers in 2016. So in 2017, it was announced that a new international airport would be constructed at a location 30 minutes from the city. The new airport was initially expected to be completed by 2021, but due to the delays caused by the Coronavirus crisis, the opening has been pushed back to 2025. The new airport is expected to facilitate 6 million passengers per year.

Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport (Iquitos)

Interestingly, the largest city in the world that is accessible only by air and river transport is Iquitos. Thanks to its airport, it is the main entry point to the Peruvian Amazon, east of the Andes in the northeast of the country. It has a single paved 8202 × 148 ft runway at an elevation of 306 feet MSL and is mainly a domestic airport with an international connection to Panama City. It handles over 1 million passengers a year and is served by a number of local airlines due to its popularity with tourists seeking to explore the jungle.

Captain Guillermo Concha Iberico International Airport

This airport serves Piura and is situated in the far northwest of Peru. It is the main airport for the Piura Region, which is the second-most populous region in the country. It is run by a private operator (Aeropuertos del Perú) that also manages other airports in northern Peru. With its strategic location, it is a lifeline for the region and facilitates a significant amount of cargo traffic.

Covid-19 and the future of Peru’s airports

The country has not been spared the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. As of December 2020, passenger numbers dropped considerably compared to 2019 levels. Before the global lockdown, Peru was heating up to be a hotbed for South America’s aviation industry. But with falling passenger numbers, airlines have been struggling to survive – which in turn affects local airports. As Covid-19 infection rates drop globally, and the vaccine rollouts progress, Peru is slowly seeing a revival of its air traffic.

Considering the government’s eagerness to invest in their airport infrastructure before the crisis, we should see further airport expansion projects in the works within the next decade. So whilst recovery may start off slowly, we’re expecting Peru to make big strides in the future when it comes to new airport developments and current airport upgrades.