Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport
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|Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport
Santiago International Airport
|IATA: SCL – ICAO: SCEL
|Airport type||Public and Military|
|Operator||SCL Aeropuerto de Santiago|
|Location||Pudahuel, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile|
|Elevation AMSL||1,555 ft / 474 m|
|Passenger Statistics from Junta de Aeronautica Civil de Chile|
Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez) (IATA: SCL, ICAO: SCEL), also known as Santiago International Airport and Pudahuel Airport, located in Pudahuel, 15 km (9.3 mi) north-west of downtown Santiago, is Chile's largest aviation facility and the busiest international air passenger gateway to the country.
Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport has domestic and international services to Europe, Oceania and The Americas. It served 15,233,980 passengers in 2012 (+17,3%). 8,334,841 were passengers in domestic routes and 6,899,139 passengers in international flights. In 2011 it was the 9th busiest airport in Latin America and the 6th busiest in South America by passenger traffic. It is the 7th busiest airport in Latin America by aircraft movements, serving 124,799 operations. It is also the major connecting point for air traffic between Latin America and Oceania. Its location in Chile's most populated area, as well as in the central part of the country makes of it an ideal main hub and maintenance center for most local airlines such as LAN Airlines, Sky Airline and PAL Airlines. LAN Airlines accounts for approximately 82% of the total airport commercial operations.
The Airport is owned by the Chilean State and operated since July 1998 by SCL Terminal Aéreo Santiago S.A. Sociedad Concesionaria, a consortium of companies formed by Agunsa (Chile), Grupo ACS (Spain) and Vancouver Airport Services (Canada). The Air traffic control is handled by the DGAC (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil - Chile). Its ICAO category is 4E. The airport functions as a joint civil-military facility. It is the headquarters of the Chilean Air Force 2nd Air Brigade and where its 10th Aviation Group is based.
Early years 
The demands of the growing metropolitan area of Santiago and the need for modern, jet-era airport facilities, which could safely accommodate both domestic and intercontinental flights, drove the need to relocate the Chilean capital's principal airport from Los Cerrillos Airport (ICAO: SCTI; IATA: ULC) in the denser southwest metropolitan region of Santiago to the more rural northwest metropolitan area.
Construction of the original terminal building, the eastern runway (17L/35R), control tower, east apron and cargo facilities commenced in 1961. On February 2, 1967, the airport was commissioned Aeropuerto Internacional de Pudahuel, due to its location in the municipality of Pudahuel. On March 19, 1980, the airport was rechristened, Air Commodore Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in honour of the founder of the Chilean Air Force and Chilean carrier LAN Airlines.
Current passenger terminal 
The facility was expanded in 1994 with a new international terminal that covers 90,000 square meters, inspired by the architecture of Marseille Provence Airport, France. The building is located between the two parallel runways. This expansion added a new control tower, jetways, a duty-free zone, hotel, and greater parking area. The old terminal was used for domestic flights until 2001, when all passenger operations were merged into the same building. In the following years, minor expansions have taken place, such as the inclusion of additional jetways.
The terminal building has four levels. The airport services are distributed in the following way:
- Ground floor: arrivals, Duty Free Shop, baggage claim, Customs and Border Control, Transport Services, parking areas, Holiday Inn Hotel access.
- First floor: Administrative offices, VIP lounges (Access through the second floor).
- Second Floor: Departures, Check-in areas, Border Control Police, Duty Free Shops, Restaurants, boarding halls and gates.
- Third Floor: Restaurants.
The terminal building hosts the following services: Bank office (a branch of Banco Santander), Chilean Automobile Club, Telecommunication Companies (Claro, Movistar and Entel PCS), Pharmacy, Travel Agencies, Insurance (Mapfre, AIG-Interamericana), Police Station (Carabineros de Chile).
In 2000, Lan Chile joined OneWorld, making of Arturo Merino Benitez Airport a main hub for the alliance, its first one in Latin America and its second in the Southern Hemisphere (After Qantas' Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport in Australia).
During the 2010 Chile Earthquake, the passenger terminal building suffered internal damages and the collapse of a pedestrian bridge between the vehicle ramp and the departures area. Nevertheless, both runways and control tower were unharmed, allowing the realization of a massive humanitarian air-bridge held by the Chilean Air Force to Concepción, Chile (Carriel Sur International Airport), close to the most damaged area by this earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The airport authority had closed off all commercial flight operations after around 1200 UTC on February 27, resuming full operations on March 3, 2010.
In 2011, IATA recognized the DGAC (Chile’s provider of air navigation services) and SCL (Santiago Airport) with the Exceptional Recognition Award to the cooperative efforts of SCL and DGAC Chile that facilitated a quick recovery from the devastation that followed the Chilean earthquake on 27 February 2010. "Both airport and air navigation services were restored quickly with no impact on rates or charges for passengers or airlines. DGAC Chile and SCL are widely regarded as leaders in Latin America for efficiency, quality, and customer focus
In June 2011, Santiago International Airport received the Air Cargo Excellence Award, as the best Latin American Cargo Airport.
Santiago International Airport is the longest non-stop destination for Iberia and Air France for flights departing from their respective hubs in Madrid-Barajas Airport and Paris-Charles de Gaulle. The Sydney–Santiago non-stop flight operated by Qantas on a Boeing 747-400ER covers the world's longest over-the-sea distance flown by a commercial airline.
Second runway 
Construction on Runway 17R/35L began in 2004 and opened to traffic in September 2005. However, within months defects were discovered and the runway required repairing, completed in January 2006. Unfortunately further study of the problem discovered that the initial repairs were insufficient, needing additional work. Finally, 17R/35L reopened for traffic in March 2007.
Future expansion 
In 2008, the airport terminal reached its maximum design capacity of 9.5 million annual passengers, 2 years earlier than forecast. This tight scenario is already showing a downgrade in the overall airport services, especially in the border control, check-in and baggage claim areas where queues are frequently seen in some early and late hours of the day.
For this reason, and with the repairs needed after the 2010 Chile Earthquake, the Ministry of Public Works announced in 2012 that it will call for proposals for the expansion and administration of the airport, 2 years prior to the end of the contract with the current operator.
The ministry decided to investigate a whole new airport master plan instead of an expansion of the single passenger terminal building, as initially proposed by the current operator. The feasibility studies for this master plan will cost 4,560 Million Chilean Pesos (USD 9.4 Million) considered in the 2011 Fiscal Budget. For this new master plan, the Government has hired the consultancy services of Aéroports de Paris Ingeniérie (ADP-I), the architecture, engineering and technical branch of the French airport corporation.
The expansion will take into account a capacity growth to 14 million annual passengers by 2014, 34 Million by year 2034 and 50 Million passengers by 2045. This plan will consider new detached passenger terminal buildings for International and Domestic flights, additional commercial areas and the construction of a light railway connecting the airport with the Santiago Metro network.
- Holiday Inn Hotels finished in July 2007 the construction of a 5-floor building, internally connected to both terminals (International and domestic), with private parking slots and special services for passengers and guests. The hotel has 112 rooms, restaurants, bars, room-service, a conference hall for 170 people, gym, covered swimming pool, spa and wi-fi internet access.
- Hotel Diego de Almagro is located 2 km outside the airport area.
- The brand new Hilton Garden Inn Santiago Airport Hotel is located only 2.8 km from the Santiago international airport within the ENEA, one of the largest business complex in Santiago de Chile which hosts offices, big companies and entertainment. Complimentary shuttle service from the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International airport (in and out) is provided by Trans VIP. The hotel has 144 rooms, a fitness center, indoor swimming pool, sauna, 7 meeting spaces including a ballroom with capacity for up to 230 people, 24-hour business center and wireless room internet access. The hotel is close to a golf course and the Arauco Maipu Mall.
The Santiago International Airport has four tax-free shops that offer a wide range of products to supply any need customers may have. They are handled by the Spanish Duty-free operator Aldeasa. One of them is located just after the police border control at departures, while another one is located before the baggage claim area.
Souvenirs, jewelry, Chilean handcrafts and wine shops, music and accessories among others, are available in more than 70 stores from well-known international and national brands.
Santiago Airport has 21 well-known restaurants, coffee shops, and bars, located in the public area and in the national and international departing lounges. International franchises include Starbucks Coffee (both terminals), Ruby Tuesday (International terminal), Boost & Juice, Caffriccio and Dunkin' Donuts.
VIP lounges 
In the International terminal, the operators are: LAN Airlines with the Neruda Lounge and the Mistral Lounge, American Airlines (Admirals Club), and the SkyTeam alliance (Delta Air Lines Sky Club); in addition to the unaffiliated lounges, such as Pacific Club (Priority Pass).
Military Functions 
The Airport headquarters the Chilean Air Force II Air Brigade and hosts the 10th Aviation Group facilities. The 10th Aviation Group is in charge of Strategic Air Transportation, the Airborne Early Warning & Control Squadron, medical air transport emergencies and the air transportation of the President of Chile. Some of its units are C-130 Hercules, Boeing 767-300, Boeing 737 Classic, Gulfstream IV, CASA C-212 Aviocar, F-16 Fighting Falcon, AEW&C Condor. The FIDAE, Latin America's most important Air Show takes place in the 10th Aviation Group facilities.
Terminals, airlines and destinations 
Top destinations 
Cargo terminal 
|Centurion Air Cargo||Miami, Lima|
|LAN Cargo||Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Campinas Viracopos, Miami|
|Martinair Cargo||Aguadilla, Amsterdam, Bogotá, Guayaquil, Miami, Quito|
Ground transportation 
Arturo Merino Benitez is about 17 kilometres (11 mi) by car from Santiago's city centre. The airport is well served by the 6-lane expressway Costanera Norte (Exit # 31), which crosses through the city from West to East bordering the Mapocho river, while it is also well connected to the West, North and North-East of Santiago by the Vespucio Norte Express Ring motorway (Exit # 18).
Taxi & Shuttle Services 
There are 2 official airport taxi services: Taxi Oficial and Taxi Vip, which can be contacted at their desks after the Baggage claim area. TransVip shuttle services reach most of Santiago's hotels, business and residential districts. The average cost for shuttle services is USD$15 dollars.
Centropuerto buses connect the Airport with Los Héroes station of Santiago Metro. Their frequency is every 10 minutes during weekdays and 15 minutes during weekends.
Rental services 
Car rental services are available from the airport, the average cost goes from USD$80 per day, the cost could increase depending on the mileage and the city where the drop off will take place.
Accidents and incidents 
No airline disasters have occurred at the site. However 3 flights with final destination SCL crashed en route:
- On April 28, 1969 LAN Chile Flight 160, a Boeing 727 arriving from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ministro Pistarini International Airport, crashed short of runway, 24 km North of Colina, Chile (50 km. North of Arturo Merino Benítez Airport). None of the 60 passengers and crew were injured in the accident, but the aircraft was written off.
- On October 13, 1972 a Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 chartered by a Uruguayan rugby team crashed into the Chilean Andes while en route to SCL. Of the 40 passengers and 5 crew members, 16 were found alive 72 days after the accident.
- On October 2, 1996, flight 603, an AeroPerú Boeing 757 flying the Miami-Lima-Santiago route crashed into the Pacific Ocean some minutes after its take off from Lima, Perú's Jorge Chávez International Airport, killing all on board. The cause of the accident was a maintenance worker's failure to remove tape covering the static ports necessary to provide correct instrument data to the cockpit while flying.
- On September 2, 2011, a Chilean Air Force CASA C-212 Aviocar with 18 passengers and 3 crew members took off from Arturo Merino Benitez Airport and crashed into the sea off Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, killing all on board. The aircraft was operating a relief flight in support of operations in the wake of the 2010 Chile earthquake and tsunami. Notable members of Televisión Nacional de Chile (National Broadcasting of Chile) such as presenter Felipe Camiroaga, journalist Roberto Bruce and philanthropist Felipe Cubillos died in the accident.
- On July 4, 1973, an Aerolíneas Argentinas Boeing 737-200 registration LV-JTO, with 77 passengers on board, departed from Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was hijacked soon after its take off by a member of the ERP (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo - In English: People's Revolutionary Army). The aircraft was forced to land at Mendoza's El Plumerillo International Airport, flying subsequently to Santiago, where 49 passengers were freed. The flight continued to Lima, Perú, where other 6 hostages were released. The aircraft finally landed in Havana, Cuba, where the hijacker asked for political asylum.
- "Reuters earthquake report". Reuters. February 27, 2010. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
- (French) Business Travel, "Aéroport de Santiago au Chili: retour à la normale mercredi", 2 March 2010 (accessed 3 March 2010)
- "Shopping and services". Aeropuerto de Santiago. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
- http://www.letsgochile.com/rent-a-car Rent a car Santiago
- Official web site (English)
- Airport information for SCEL at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.