In the News from Panama

New Tocumen Terminal Scheduled to Open in 2018

Big news for Panama travelers. The much-anticipated second terminal at Tocumen International Airport is scheduled to open in Oct. 2018.

That’s the word from Tocumen manager Carlos Duboy, who told Telemetro the new terminal is about 75 percent finished. Construction of the terminal is expected to be completed by next September, but it will take at least a month to get ready for operations, he said.

The new $800 million terminals will be a major event for Panama City. On one level, it will simply be a huge addition to the transportation system for Panama, firmly establishing Panama City as the “Hub of the Americas.” The new terminal will allow more flights into Panama City, providing a boost to the economy and home sales.

The current airport is already running at capacity, Duboy said. And Copa Airlines has been aggressively expanding its routes around the world, promoting the wonders of Panama to new audiences and attracting passengers from around the world. Many travelers making connections through Panama City take advantage of Copa’s program to allow an extended layover in the city.

When the final numbers are counted, traffic through the airport is expected to total 7 percent more this year than the 15 million passengers in 2016, Duboy said. The new terminal is expected to increase capacity by 5 million to 7 million passengers, with 20 new gates, more customs facilities, and a new baggage-handling system.

But the new terminal will have an impact far beyond the tourist numbers. The opening is sure to be an international event, much like the opening of the Panama Canal expansion and the launch of the Panama metro, the first metro in the region.

The terminal was designed by the internationally-acclaimed Foster + Partners, one of the most famous architects in the world. Any Foster building of this scale is worthy of attention and this one will play a key role in the regional economy. It’s unveiling is sure to attract global media attention and draw more focus on Panama’s growth strategy.

The design of the terminal alone will be worthy of discussion. The concept is focused on connections to Panama’s nature, as well as improving connections for travelers. Openings in the roof will allow natural light and the curved design “has been carefully balanced to minimize walking distances while extending to accommodate a large number of aircraft stands,” Foster + Partners says on its Web site.

The new terminal is designed “to reflect the Panamanian landscape, evoking a unique sense of place to welcome visitors to the country and removing the anonymity of the international hub experience for transit passengers,” Foster + Partners says.