MIAMI — Bogota’s recently modernized El Dorado International Airport (IATA: BOG / ICAO: SKBO) is the third busiest Airport in Latin America, behind São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport and Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport.
BOG is situated at 8,360 feet above sea level and has two parallel runways, 13L/31R and 13R/31L. Both measure 12,467 x 148 feet. The airport serves as a hub for Colombia’s three main airlines: Avianca, LAN Colombia, and Copa Airlines Colombia. The passenger terminal serves six domestic and 18 international airlines total, while the cargo terminal handles four domestic and 14 international carriers.
Avianca is the largest domestic carrier, with service to 23 domestic and 27 international destinations in the U.S., Latin America, Caribbean, and Europe. Foreign passenger carriers serving BOG and their destinations include Aerolineas Argentinas (Buenos Aires – Ezeiza); Aeromexico (Mexico City); Air Canada (Toronto-Pearson); Air France (Paris – Charles de Gaulle); American Airlines (Dallas-Forth Worth, Miami)l; Conviasa (Caracas); Copa Airlines (Panama City); Cubana de Aviación (Havana); Delta Airlines (Atlanta, New York – JFK); Iberia (Madrid); Interjet (Mexico CIty); JetBlue (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando); LAN Peru (Lima); Lufthansa (Frankfurt); Spirit (Fort Lauderdale); TAME (Quito); TAP Air Portugal (Lisbon); and United Airlines (Houston – Intercontinental, Newark).
The original two-pier terminal building opened in 1959. The northern pier served domestic operations, while the southern pier was for international flights. This facility is gradually disappearing as the new terminal takes shape. The new complex opened in 2012, and it consists of 32 gates (10 international, 17 domestic, and five shared for both types of services). In addition, the Puente Aéreo (Air Bridge), which opened in 1982, exclusively serves Avianca’s domestic operations with ten gates. Avianca is starting to shift operations to the new terminal and will complete this move in the second quarter of 2014, also the expected completion of the new complex. The Air Bridge will stay to serve Colombia’s smaller domestic carriers. BOG also has a new cargo facility that opened in 2010. The new naming conventions for the passenger terminals will be T1 for the new terminal and T2 for the Air Bridge.
I moved to Bogota in 1972 when I was two-years-old from my birthplace New York City and spent a lot of time at BOG plane spotting from the observation deck of the old terminal with my father. I especially looked forward to days when we flew. I moved to South Florida in 1980 but continue to visit Bogota almost every year, and this has allowed me to see the changes at BOG firsthand. The airport is no doubt evolving for the better.
The combined operations of the old terminal and the Air Bridge simply became too small for the growth in traffic over the last 30 years. Moreover, the old terminal felt cramped with long check-in, security, and customs/immigration lines, especially during peak hours or vacation season. This outdated feel left BOG far behind other major Latin American airports. Talk of modernizing BOG dates back to the mid-1980s, but for various reasons, the project faced many delays that lasted over 20 years.
From a passenger perspective, I am not only impressed by the modernity and elegance of the new facilities, but also by their spaciousness and efficiency. Based on my recent experience arriving at and departing from the new terminal, it’s great to see that the days of long waiting lines for check-in, screening, and customs & immigration are now a thing of the past. There are also plenty of eateries, souvenir shops, and free wireless internet to make time at the airport more enjoyable. The new facilities will vastly improve the passenger experience and set a high standard for the Latin American region.