Friday, July 17, 2009

Paso del Norte International Airport? What's in a Name?

The Sun News this morning carries an article by Steve Ramirez to the effect that the City of El Paso is thinking about changing the name El Paso International Airport to El Paso-Las Cruces International Airport. This made me wonder why they would not also want to include Cd. Juarez in the name and call it the El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces International Airport, or, better yet, the Paso del Norte International Airport?

The logic for doing so is powerful. The El Paso International Airport had a total passenger count in 2008 of 3,302,764, making it easily the largest airport in the region. The Abraham Gonzalez International Airport in Cd. Juarez in 2008 had a total passenger count of 903,129, only 27% as many passengers as El Paso, even though Cd. Juarez has a population twice as large as Metropolitan El Paso. This suggests strongly that many Juarenses use the El Paso International airport frequently, probably more so than residents of Dona Ana County, given the population disparities (Dona Ana County only has about 203,000 population, compared to about 1.5 million in Juarez). Income differentials also account for some of the variance. With wage rates at the about eight times lower in Cd. Juarez, far fewer people there can afford to fly.

Naming it the Paso del Norte International Airport would also reflect the historical name of the region, while including Cd. Juarez and Dona Ana County, which have been part of the Paso del Norte region at least since Onate crossed over the Rio Grande/Bravo in 1598.

By point of comparison, the Albuquerque International Airport carried 6,467,263 passengers in 2008, far more than the combined totals of El Paso and Juarez which, including Dona Ana County have a population of nearly 2.5 million. The Albuquerque metropolitan area has a population of almost 1 million, if you include Santa Fe, Sandoval, Torrance, Bernalillo, and Valencia counties. Although Santa Fe is not often included in the Albuquerque metro population stats, it deserves to be there since for flying purposes, since it is the aiport used by Santa Fe. The relatively large passenger load in Albuquerque is also due to some extent to higher income levels there.

Other comparisons: Mexico City, with a population of over 20 million, has an international airport with traffic of 26.4 million passengers in 2008, about the same as Dallas-Ft. Worth (26.7 million), but short of the 43.1 million passengers in Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson International airport, the busiest airport in the world.

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