José María Córdova International Airport

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José María Córdova International Airport

Aeropuerto Internacional José María Córdova
2018 aeropuerto internacional José María Córdova, vista aérea.jpg
Airport typeCommercial
OperatorAirplan MDE
ServesMedellín Metropolitan Area
OpenedAugust 29, 1985
Hub for
Elevation AMSL7,027 ft / 2,142 m
Coordinates06°10′02″N 75°25′36″W / 6.16722°N 75.42667°W / 6.16722; -75.42667
WebsiteOfficial Web
MDE is located in Antioquia Department
MDE is located in Colombia
Direction Length Surface
m ft
01/19 3,557 11,670 Asphalt
Statistics (2020)
Total Passengers3,071,996
Source: Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste[1]

José María Córdova International Airport (IATA: MDE, ICAO: SKRG) is an international airport located in the city of Rionegro, 20 kilometres (12 mi) south-east of Medellín, and is the second largest airport in Colombia after El Dorado International Airport of Bogotá in terms of infrastructure and passenger service. The airport is named after José María Córdova (sometimes spelled "Córdoba"), a Colombian army general who was a native of Ríonegro.

It serves the Medellin Metropolitan Area and is the most important airport in the Antioquia Department; in terms of infrastructure, it is the most important in western Colombia. It's also the main hub for low-cost airline Viva Colombia. It serves several international destinations, one of the busiest being the route to Miami International Airport. It also serves the most flown route within Colombia: Rionegro-Bogota, which is mainly operated by Avianca, Viva Colombia and LATAM Colombia. In recent years, significant technology and infrastructure upgrades (like the addition of LCD screens and escalators) have been made, making it one of the most recognized airports in Colombia. It now has service to destinations in Europe and has added new destinations in the Americas, along with the Caribbean as well.

International destinations include the United States, Panama, Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Spain. The airport also serves domestic flights to most major Colombian cities such as Bogota, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta and San Andres Island. Freight transport is also one of the strengths of the terminal, providing air transportation to most of the flower exports (and other products) from Antioquia bound to the Americas and Europe.

Since its inauguration in 1986 until 1991, the terminal had heavy passenger and cargo movement, in part because the Olaya Herrera Airport was closed during this time.[2] When it reopened in 1991, traffic reduced. Despite the reduction in domestic traffic since its reopening, there has been a steady increase in international traffic as well as an increase in the number of airlines flying into the airport, including American Airlines, LATAM, TACA, Aerogal. As for cargo airlines, Martinair, Centurion Air Cargo, ABSA, and Florida West International Airways and national freight airlines such as Avianca Cargo, LANCO, and AeroSucre have increased their flights to the terminal.


Terminal interior
Terminal view
Control tower

The suburban, large airport serves all major international and domestic routes for the Medellín area, in contrast to the in-town, yet much smaller Olaya Herrera Airport, which serves the Medellín area with domestic flights only.

José María Córdova International Airport is the second-busiest airport in Colombia in total passenger and cargo movement after the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá. The runway is also used by the nearby military base of the Colombian Air Force located in Rionegro, named Air Combat Command No. 5 (CACOM 5), where all types of military and national police aircraft arrive and depart.

The airport has air navigation aids such as VOR, NDB, and ILS, which makes navigation and landings safer in bad weather.[3][4][5]

Antioquia's exports, mostly flowers and other products from the region, depart en route to international destinations from these terminals. The cargo operator Avianca Cargo has its main base at the airport, and operates flights to countries in South, Central and North America. Avianca Cargo has a ramp that can accommodate up to ten aircraft. All types of aircraft, including Boeing 747, Douglas DC-10, Boeing 767 are among the most common arrivals at the terminal. In addition, the terminal is near the customs area and airline hangars.

The airport is built in a dome shape. It has many restaurants and shops, including a duty-free shop after clearing security. There are also banks, money exchange, and car rentals services. Avianca has a VIP room, and there is also a VIP airport lounge called "The Lounge Medellin"[6] which is operated by Global Lounge Network.[7] Outside the main building is a parking lot and garage, which includes and an area for motorcycles. Long term parking is also provided.

In 2016, the airport handled 7,376,160 passengers, and 6,892,104 in 2017.


Baggage claim area in 2021

Between 1930 and 1932, three wealthy families in the metropolitan area of Medellín began with the idea of providing the city with an airport, as they were part of the Colombian Air Navigation Company which sought to carry passengers and mail from the city of Medellín to Puerto Berrio, along the Magdalena River and ultimately connect the cities of Medellín and Bogotá. One of the most important was Gonzalo Mejia, who in a very colloquial manner determined what would be the only place where an airport could be built; this location was later confirmed by the Curtis Wright firm based in New York City.

After several obstacles, the city of Medellín finally approved the construction of an unpaved runway about 974 m long, which would later become Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport. Companies like Saco and Scadta from the cities of Barranquilla and Bogotá soon began service. Then in the 70s the need for a larger airport for the province of Antioquia arose due to the limitations of the Olaya Herrera Airport caused by insufficient space to expand. Two sites were proposed for the new airport: one in the vicinity of the municipality of Barbosa northeast of the city, and another in the valley of San Nicolas in Rionegro, east of the city. The latter was selected and construction began.

The airport opened on August 29, 1985.[8] During the same year, Avianca conducted test flights of its Boeing 747, first on the original runway at Olaya Herrera Airport, and then at the new José María Córdova. During this time the airport had significant movement of cargo and passengers, as the operations from the Olaya Herrera airport declined to almost zero (both airports today have traffic, but the Olaya Herrera airport only serves for domestic flights). José María Córdova is now the main airport for cargo and international flights from Medellín.

In January 2006, an Airbus A380 landed at the airport to conduct technical tests of the engines. This was the first time a plane of that type landed on Colombian soil, and also the first time it happened in South America.[9][10]

In August 2019, a new highway opened, which cut the traveling time from the airport to Medellín from 45 to just 20 minutes. The route includes a tunnel called "Tunel de Oriente". The total cost of the project was 1.1 billion pesos.[11]

Renovation and expansion[edit]

José María Córdova Airport underwent an expansion in 2017 that expanded the domestic terminal from 41,350 square metres (445,100 sq ft) to 50,000 square metres (540,000 sq ft) and added five new gates to it, along with three new gates for the international terminal.

The expansion will increase the passenger handling capacity to 11 million annually.[12]

Within the works, passengers will find security systems, flight information via digital displays, high-tech communication, passenger arrival lounges with shopping, improvement in health services, improvement in firefighting services, and improvement in baggage handling systems. The total cost of the works was 350 billion pesos.[13]

The objectives of the renovation and expansion plan are to make the airport a modern facility, improve the comfort of passengers, and to meet the requirements of ICAO, AEROCIVIL (the Colombian civil aviation authority) and IATA.

The cargo terminal expansion was completed in February 2020 at a cost of around $110 million pesos. The terminal went from 14,000 square metres (150,000 sq ft) to 16,000 square metres (170,000 sq ft).[14]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights at the airport.

Aeroméxico Mexico City
Air Europa Madrid
American Airlines Miami, New York–JFK (ends November 3, 2022)[15]
Avianca Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cancún, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Miami (resumes October 30, 2022), Mexico City, Madrid, Monteria, New York–JFK (resumes October 30, 2022), Pereira (begins December 8, 2022),[16] Punta Cana, Riohacha, Santa Marta
Seasonal: Orlando (resumes December 8, 2022), San Andrés Island
Avianca Costa Rica San José de Costa Rica–Juan Santamaría
Avior Airlines Caracas, Valencia (VE)
Copa Airlines Panama City–Tocumen
EasyFly Pereira
EZAir Curaçao
Jetair Caribbean Curaçao
JetBlue Fort Lauderdale
JetSmart Chile Seasonal: Santiago de Chile (resumes December 13, 2022)
LATAM Colombia Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Monteria, Pereira, San Andrés Island, Santa Marta
LATAM Perú Lima
SARPA Seasonal Charter: Panama City–Albrook, Quito
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando
Ultra Air Barranquilla (begins October 8, 2022),[17] Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Cúcuta (begins December 8, 2022),[17] Monteria (begins October 8, 2022),[17] San Andres Island (begins October 7, 2022),[17] Santa Marta
Viva Air Colombia Armenia, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Cali, Cancún, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Lima, Mexico City, Miami, Monteria, Orlando, Pasto, Pereira, Punta Cana, Riohacha, San Andres Island, Santa Marta, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Valledupar, Villavicencio
Wingo Aruba (begins October 1, 2022),[18] Bogotá, Cancún, Havana (begins October 1, 2022),[18] Panama City–Balboa, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo–Las Americas


Amerijet International Miami
Avianca Cargo Lima, Miami, Quito, San José de Costa Rica
FedEx Express Miami
LATAM Cargo Brasil Miami


Annual passenger traffic at MDE airport. See Wikidata query.
Busiest domestic routes (roundtrip) out of Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (Jan-Dec) (2016)[19]
Rank City Passengers Top carriers
1 Bogotá, Cundinamarca 3,590,548 Avianca, LATAM Colombia, Viva Colombia
2 Cali, Valle del Cauca 739,954 Avianca, Viva Colombia
3 Cartagena, Bolívar 735,408 Avianca, Viva Colombia, LATAM Colombia
4 Barranquilla, Atlántico 365,086 Avianca, Viva Colombia
5 San Andrés, San Andrés 329,274 LATAM Colombia, Viva Colombia
6 Santa Marta, Magdalena 276,684 Avianca, Viva Colombia
7 Montería, Córdoba 125,534 Avianca, Viva Colombia
8 Bucaramanga, Santander 65,888 Avianca
Busiest international routes (roundtrip) out of José María Córdova International Airport (Jan-Dec) (2016)[20]
Rank City Passengers Top carriers
1 Panama Panamá, Panama 386,499 Copa Airlines Colombia
2 United States Miami, USA 249,167 American Airlines, Avianca, Viva Colombia
3 United States Fort Lauderdale, USA 172,929 JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines
4 Spain Madrid, Spain 85,894 Avianca, Iberia
5 El Salvador San Salvador, El Salvador 63,614 Avianca El Salvador
6 United States New York, USA 63,475 Avianca
7 Peru Lima, Peru 63,276 Avianca Perú
8 Mexico Mexico City, Mexico 62,774 Aeromexico
9 United States Atlanta, United States 56,857 Delta Air Lines
10 Panama Panama City-Balboa, Panama 53,809 Viva Colombia, Wingo
11 Panama Panama City–Albrook, Panama 46,873 Air Panama
12 Venezuela Valencia, Venezuela 40,174 Avior Airlines
13 Curaçao Willemstad, Curaçao 13,995 Insel Air
14 Aruba Oranjestad, Aruba 6,082 Insel Air Aruba

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On December 21, 1996, an Antonov An-32B aircraft (registration HK-4008X) operated by SELVA Colombia crashed while on final approach to runway 36. The aircraft had taken off from Bogota for its usual cargo flight to José María Córdova Airport with 6 tons of cargo. During the approach phase, the plane veered three miles to the left of the glide slope, then turned sharply right, finally crashing more than five miles from the south end of the airport. The crash killed all four occupants of the aircraft.[21]
  • On December 22, 1998, an Antonov An-32B aircraft (registration HK-3930X) crashed while approaching the runway. The aircraft had taken off from Bogota for a cargo flight to the airport. The accident occurred at dawn and weather conditions were very bad due to the dense fog that was present in the area. The accident killed all five occupants of the aircraft. A similar incident had occurred two years earlier, with a plane of the same company in similar circumstances.[22]
  • On October 15, 2004, a Douglas DC-3 (registration HK-1503) belonging to the company Aerovanguardia took off at 6:30 am from La Vanguardia Airport in Villavicencio for a cargo flight. At 7:30, air traffic control informed the pilots that the airport was closed due to poor visibility caused by fog. The pilot of the aircraft decided to fly to the alternate Olaya Herrera Airport, but the aircraft collided with power cables during descent, crashing in a wooded area near the town of Santa Elena, west of Rionegro, killing all three occupants of the aircraft.[23]
  • On June 7, 2006, a Tradewinds Airlines Boeing 747-200F (registration N922FT) had an engine failure on takeoff. The pilot aborted but the plane overran the runway by 150m. None of the 6 on board were injured. The plane was substantially damaged, with the nose gear being completely sheared off.[24]
  • On January 3, 2009, American Airlines flight 924, a Boeing 737-800, took off from Jose Maria Cordova Airport and had to make an emergency landing due to fire in one of its engines. Upon landing, the pilot was forced to use the maximum braking, causing the brakes to overheat and one of the tires to explode. The airport was closed for 4 hours, but none of the 148 passengers on board were injured in the crash.
  • On November 28, 2016, LaMia Airlines Flight 2933, a Avro RJ85, crashed on its approach to the airport. The plane was carrying members of the Chapecoense football team who were on their way to compete in the 2016 Copa Sudamericana finals. There were 71 fatalities and 6 survivors in the accident.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ASUR Announces Total Passenger Traffic for December 2020" (PDF). Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste. January 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  2. ^ "Tejiendo historias y bendiciones". Aeropuerto Olaya Herrera (in Spanish). 29 October 2017. Retrieved 2021-08-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Medellin NDB
  4. ^ Marinilla VOR
  5. ^ Rionegro VOR
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Giraldo, Mateo Isaza (29 August 2017). "Así fue la inauguración del José María Córdova, un día como hoy hace 32 años". (in European Spanish). Retrieved 12 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "AIRBUS A380 EN COLOMBIA!". 8 February 2006.
  10. ^ "Airbus llega a Medellin". BBC News. 10 January 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Colombia cuts ribbon on Medellín airport upgrade". Bnamericas. 15 December 2017.
  14. ^ "AMPLIACIÓN DEL TERMINAL DE CARGA DEL AEROPUERTO JOSÉ MARÍA CÓRDOVA EN MEDELLÍN YA ES UNA REALIDAD". Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (National Infrastructure Agency). 29 February 2020.
  15. ^ "American is dropping 7 international routes and resuming 2 others as it adjusts its network — see the full list". Business Insider.
  16. ^ "Avianca lanza siete nuevas rutas entre Colombia, Brasil, Chile y Estados Unidos". 19 September 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d "Ultra Air Expands Medellin Network in 4Q22". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Wingo will have flights from Medellin to Aruba and Cuba". Aviacionline (in Spanish). July 12, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  19. ^ Aerocivil statistics
  20. ^ Aerocivil traffic
  21. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Antonov An-32B HK-4008X Rionegro/Medellín-José María Córdova Airport (MDE)". Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  22. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Antonov An-32B HK-3930X Rionegro/Medellín-José María Córdova Airport (MDE)". Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  23. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-3C HK-1503 Medellín-Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH)". Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  24. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747-2U3BSF N922FT Rionegro/Medellín-José María Córdova Airport (MDE)". Retrieved 2021-08-11.

External links[edit]

Media related to José María Córdova International Airport at Wikimedia Commons