Colombia Seeks to Boost Bogota Flights 50% Amid Surging Demand

Colombia plans to boost capacity at its main airport in Bogota by as much as 50 percent over the next two years, to ease delays and overcrowding amid a surge in international travel.

The Andean nation grew at the fastest pace among major Latin American economies last year, boosting Colombians’ demand for tourism and business travel. At the same time, the number of foreigners arriving rose 11 percent as violence levels fell to a three-decade low.

“The international market has been growing at lot faster than the domestic one,” Gustavo Lenis, head of Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority, or Aerocivil, said in an interview in Bogota on Thursday. “Colombia has become more attractive for business travelers as well as for foreign tourists.”

The rise in passenger numbers has put a strain on air infrastructure that the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness survey ranks 78 out of 144 countries. Complaints rose by a third in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to Aerocivil.

The 700-billion-peso ($280 million) plan includes the expansion and modernization of the existing runway and terminal. Colombia also plans to build a new airport on the outskirts of Bogota, in a project called El Dorado II, that could be ready in about 6 years, Lenis said.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will start a thrice-weekly Bogota-Amsterdam flight next month. Emirates Airlines and Air New Zealand have held talks with the government to begin operations in the country while Turkish Airlines already has approval to operate, according to Lenis. The airlines didn’t reply to e-mails seeking comment.

Colombia’s homicide rate fell to its lowest level in more than three decades last year, President Juan Manuel Santos said in January. Marxist guerrillas in December declared an indefinite cease-fire.

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