Tocumen International Airport

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Tocumen International Airport
Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen
Airport type Public
Operator Tocumen S.A.
Serves Panama City
Location Tocumen, Panama
Hub for Copa Airlines
Elevation AMSL 41 m / 135 ft
Coordinates 09°04′17″N 079°23′01″W / 9.07139°N 79.38361°W / 9.07139; -79.38361Coordinates: 09°04′17″N 079°23′01″W / 9.07139°N 79.38361°W / 9.07139; -79.38361
MPTO is located in Panama
Location in Panama
Direction Length Surface
m ft
03R/21L 3,050 10,007 Concrete
03L/21R 2,682 8,799 Asphalt
Statistics (2013)
Passengers 7,784,328
Source: DAFIF,[1] STV[2]

Tocumen International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen) (IATA: PTYICAO: MPTO) is an international airport located 24 km (15 miles) from Panama City, Panama. In 2006, it underwent a major expansion and renovation program in order to modernize and improve its facilities. It is currently the only airport in Central America with two runways for use and is also the largest and busiest airport in the country and Central America by passenger traffic.


During World War II, Panamanian airports were leased exclusively by the U.S. military. The nearest airport to Tocumen was the Paitilla Point Airfield. Several airports were built to protect the Panama Canal from foreign aggression. The 37th Pursuit Group at Albrook Field replaced the P-40 Warhawks of the 28th Pursuit Squadron at the Paitilla Point airbase from 9 December 1941 though 26 March 1942 in the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The first Tocumen International Airport was inaugurated on June 1, 1947 by President Enrique A. Jiménez, and airport operations began before the construction works were completed.

The administrative building/passenger terminal was inaugurated seven years later, during the administration of Colonel Jose Antonio Remon Cantera. The old airport, which currently is being used as a cargo terminal, was built on an area of 720 ha (1,800 acres) and was 126 ft (38 m) above sea level. As time passed, and due to Panama's role as a country of transit, that terminal became too small to attend to the growing demand for air operations. This compelled the aeronautical authorities at the time to consider expanding the airport. Work on the new installations began in 1971.

In order to build the structure that currently houses the current passenger terminal, a lot of land had to be moved and the bed of the Tocumen river had to be diverted from its original site. The current passenger terminal was inaugurated on August 15, 1978 and operations began on September 5 of the same year. The Tocumen International Airport is one of the few airports in the region that has two landing runways able to serve the largest commercial aircraft operating today.

The name of the airport was changed in 1981 by the military government for Omar Torrijos International Airport, in honor to the Panamanian leader who died in July 31, 1981, at the age of 52 in a plane crash in Cerro Marta, Coclesito in very bad conditions. After nine years, the original name was reestablished after the fall of the dictatorship of Panama by the U.S. invasion of 1989. The runway of the old airport (03L/21R) is mainly used for cargo and private flights, but also as a supplement to the runway during peak traffic periods. The main runway (03R/21L) is 3,050 m × 45 m (10,007 ft × 148 ft) and is used primarily for commercial flights, the 03R direction is ILS Cat. I enabled. Until May 31, 2003 Tocumen International Airport was managed by the Civil Aeronautics Directorate (which is known today as the Civil Aeronautics Authority). On June 1 of that year, an innovative terminal management platform was created through Law No. 23 of January 29, 2003, which set out a regulatory framework for the management of airports and landing strips in Panama. This law allowed the creation of Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen, S.A., also referred to as Tocumen, S.A., which currently manages the terminal. This law is one of a number of laws that restructured the aeronautical sector in Panama to further its improvement and modernization.[3]

Expansion 1[edit]

The 2006 expansion and modernization project consisted of three stages:

Passenger terminal expansion[edit]

The main passenger terminal was expanded 20,830 m2 (224,200 sq ft) at a cost of approximately US$21 million. New boarding gates were built to allow more flights to and from Panama, and to facilitate the growth of commercial and internal circulation areas.

Tocumen airport administration acquired 22 new boarding bridges and replaced the oldest 14. This included the addition of 6 remote positions, hence allowing Tocumen Airport to have a total of 28 boarding gates. The new installations were opened in 2006. The airport also has a VIP lounge, Copa Club, operated by the partnership between United Airlines and Copa Airlines that caters to Copa's partner airlines and Star Alliance members. It also had an Admirals Club for American Airlines, which closed on June 30, 2012.[4]


The next step of the modernization project was the purchasing of new equipment to provide service and support to the common areas of the airport.

New equipment included: modern boarding gates and elevators, luggage conveyor belts, flight information system, and revamping the air conditioning system.

Renovation in the cargo terminal[edit]

The renovation of the old Tocumen international airport (originally built in 1947) to be used solely as a cargo terminal, was the last step of the modernization project of Tocumen international airport. It included the redesign of the central building, the construction of new buildings for cargo companies among other improvements. [5]

Expansion 2[edit]

Several aircraft from Copa Airlines parked at Muelle Norte Terminal.

Muelle Norte[edit]

The second expansion phase of Tocumen International airport is known as Terminal Muelle Norte. At a cost of USD 60 million, a completely new terminal with 12 additional terminal gates was built. With these 12 new gates plus the existing 22 gates and the six remote aircraft docks, there will be a total of 40 gates.

The new facilities include platforms, taxiways and a new road which connect both the cargo terminal and the airport's administration building. The Muelle Norte is linked to the main passenger terminal and have 10 moving walkways for passengers and 1,400 m2 (15,000 sq ft) commercial areas. The luggage sorting system was expanded to accommodate increased demand. The tender for the design of the second phase was given to Ecuador-based Planman Cia Ltda. Colombia-based Aerotocumen won the tender of the construction of the Muelle Norte.

The project started in mid-October 2009 and it was completed and inaugurated on January 20, 2012 by President Martinelli. It was fully opened for the tourists and passengers on April 2012.

Expansion 3[edit]

Terminal Sur[edit]

Terminal Sur was tendered in the first half of 2012 and the competition was won by the Brazilian company of Odebrecht. It is an investment of US$780 million, which includes 20 additional gates. It includes the construction of a new terminal, hundreds of parking spots, Tocumen river diversion, and four new direct-access lanes to the airport. The terminal will have gates able to accommodate the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747 as well. It is expected for it to boost international traffic by attracting new airlines and increasing their operations. It will open in 2017.

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Main terminal[edit]

Airlines Destinations
Aeroméxico Mexico City (begins May 14, 2015)
Air Canada Toronto–Pearson
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle[6]
Air Transat Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson
American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Aruba Airlines Aruba
Avior Airlines Barcelona (VE)
Avianca Bogotá, Medellín–Córdova
Avianca Costa Rica San José (CR)
Avianca Ecuador Bogotá
Avianca El Salvador San Salvador
Cayman Airways Seasonal: Grand Cayman[7]
Condor Frankfurt
Conviasa Caracas, Managua
Copa Airlines Aruba, Asunción, Barranquilla, Belo Horizonte–Confins, Bogotá, Boston, Brasilia, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Cali, Campinas, Cancún, Caracas, Cartagena de Indias, Chicago–O'Hare, Córdoba, Curaçao, David, Fort Lauderdale, Georgetown–Cheddi Jagan, Guadalajara, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Havana, Iquitos, Kingston, Las Vegas, Liberia (CR), Lima, Los Angeles, Managua, Manaus, Maracaibo, Medellín–Córdova, Mexico City, Miami, Montego Bay, Monterrey, Montevideo, Montreal–Trudeau,[8] Nassau, New Orleans (begins 24 June 2015),[9] New York–JFK, Orlando, Port-au-Prince, Port of Spain, Porto Alegre, Puebla (begins August 4, 2015),[10] Punta Cana, Quito, Recife, Rio de Janeiro–Galeão, San Andrés Island, San José (CR), San Juan, San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz de la Sierra–Viru Viru, Santiago de Chile, Santiago de los Caballeros, Santo Domingo, São Paulo–Guarulhos, St. Maarten, Tampa,[11] Tegucigalpa, Toronto–Pearson, Valencia (VE), Villahermosa (begins July 31, 2015),[10] Washington–Dulles
Copa Airlines Colombia Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena de Indias, Cúcuta, Guatemala City, Medellín–Córdova, Pereira
Delta Air Lines Atlanta
Iberia Madrid
KLM Amsterdam
Lufthansa Frankfurt (begins 16 November 2015)[12]
SBA Airlines Caracas
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale
Sunwing Airlines Toronto–Pearson
Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau
TAP Portugal Lisbon1
United Airlines Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark
Venezolana Maracaibo


  • 1: TAP Portugal's flight from Lisbon to Panama City make a stop in Bogotá. However, the airline does not have traffic rights to transport passengers solely between Bogotá and Panama City.


Airlines Destinations
ABSA Cargo Airline Fortaleza, Guayaquil, Manaus, Miami, Quito
AeroSucre Bogotá
Amerijet International Miami
Avianca Cargo Bogotá
Cargolux Campinas, Luxembourg
Centurion Air Cargo Lima, Miami
Cielos del Perú
DHL Aviation
operated by DHL Aero Expreso
Aruba, Curaçao, Guatemala City, Miami, San José de Costa Rica, San Juan
DHL de Guatemala Guatemala City
FedEx Express
IAG Cargo
Líneas Aéreas Suramericanas Bogotá
MasAir Guadalajara, Mexico-City
TAB - Transportes Aéreos Bolivianos Miami, Santa Cruz de la Sierra-Viru Viru
UPS Airlines Louisville
Vensecar Internacional Caracas


Traffic figures[edit]

Tocumen International Airport is a regional hub for commercial flights heading to and from The Caribbean, South America, North America and Central America. Also, the European cities of Frankfurt, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Paris are served. Common airliners at the airport include Boeing 737s, Embraer 190s and Airbus A320s. The largest passenger aircraft flying to/from the airport are the Airbus A310, the Airbus A340, the Boeing 767, and the Boeing 777,[13] flown by Air Transat, Iberia Airlines, Condor Flugdienst, SBA Airlines, Air France, and KLM, respectively.

Tocumen International Airport is also the main hub of Copa Airlines.

Year Passengers  % Change Cargo  % Change Movements  % Change
2003 2,145,489 11.5% 85,508 - 43,980 -
2004 2,398,443 11.8% 96,215 12.5% 45,703 3.9%
2005 2,756,948 15% 103,132 19.6% 47,873 4.6%
2006 3,215,423 16.6% 82,186 -20.3% 53,853 12.7%
2007 3,805,312 18.3% 82,463 0.3% 61,400 14.0%
2008 4,549,170 19.5% 86,588.8 4.8% 73,621 19.9%
2009 4,748,621 4.4% 83,513 -3.8% 80,330 9.1%
2010 5,042,410 6.2% 98,565 18.0% 84,113 4.7%
2011 5,844,561 15.9% 110,946 12.6% 93,710 11.4%
2012 6,962,608 19.1% 116,332 4.9% 110,206 17.6%
2013 7,784,328 11.8% 110,186 -5.3% 121,356 10.1%
Busiest international routes out of Tocumen International Airport (2010)[14]
Rank City Passengers Airlines
1 Miami, Florida 427,220 American, Copa
2 Bogotá, Colombia 368,862 Avianca, Copa, Copa Colombia
3 San José de Costa Rica 334,419 Avianca, Copa, Copa Colombia
4 Caracas, Venezuela 265,749 Copa, SBA
5 Mexico City, Mexico 192,602 Copa
6 Havana, Cuba 189,450 Copa
7 Houston, Texas 186,098 United
8 Lima, Peru 168,983 Copa
9 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 160,004 Condor, Copa
10 Medellín, Colombia 136,227 Copa, Copa Colombia
11 Buenos Aires, Argentina 135,344 Copa
12 Guatemala City, Guatemala 127,490 Copa, Copa Colombia
13 São Paulo, Brazil 126,568 Copa
14 Orlando, Florida 118,968 Copa
15 Newark, New Jersey 111,731 United
16 Guayaquil, Ecuador 107,841 Copa, TAME
17 San Salvador, El Salvador 106,104 Avianca, Copa
18 Santiago de Chile 103,014 Copa
19 Quito, Ecuador 98,651 Copa, TAME
20 Amsterdam, Netherlands 96,199 KLM



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links[edit]