September 18, 2010
Due to the considerable length which the Chilean territory has, an intelligent measure was to create a network of Regional Airports from the extreme north to the extreme south of the South American country, including the remote Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. Presently, these airports provide services not only for the national domestic traffic but also for flights to and from neighboring countries and cities including Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. There are twelve regional airports in Chile, with Iquique as the northernmost and Punta Arenas the southernmost.
A recent Report from the Chilean Civil Aeronautics Board informed that the international traffic of the country’s Regional Airports had increased by 55% in the last five years and is showing a sustained growth, due to the increased travel to the numerous and varied tourist sites found throughout Chile, as well as to tax free zones and mining areas. As result of this trend, the recent surveys revealed that the Regional Airports of Iquique and Easter Island were leading the country’s traffic of international travelers, followed by Arica and Punta Arenas. By June of this year, 34 million passengers had used one of Chile’s Regional Airports.
The Civil Aeronautics study noted that, other than Santiago, the capital city with the only fully International Airport in Chile; Iquique leads the international traffic and has converted the local Diego Aracena Airport into a regional hub. Thousands of travelers use this airport for direct fights between the northern Chilean city and neighboring Bolivian cities such as La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The airport of Iquique also leads the international freight transportation through regional airports. According to the report, in 2009, this airport moved 4.4 tons of international freight.
Meanwhile, Easter Island’s Mataveri Airport ranks second among the Regional Airports and has become a hub for passengers flying between Easter Island and Tahiti and the South Pacific. The cited study also found that many Tahitian citizens and Government employees choose Easter Island as a preferred vacations destination. It is also noted that the French, represent 17% of the tourists visiting the legendary island.
A clear advantage of using the Regional Airports is avoiding the time and expense of obligatorily having to use Santiago’s International Airport as the only aerial port of entry and or departure to/from Chile. The Regional Airports provide easy and convenient connections between neighboring countries and Chilean cities, very distant from the capital, as is the case of Iquique, Punta Arenas, Antofagasta, Arica and, of course, Easter Island.
The recently announced direct flights from Lima to Easter Island, soon to be implemented, will increase the opportunities for travelers to link two of South America’s most important tourism highlights, Machu Picchu in Peru and Chile’s Easter Island, with greater ease and less time and travelling costs. The Regional Airports also provide greater employment opportunities and economic development to each one of the cities and regions they serve, facilitating travel for the international voyagers and bringing prosperity to areas which could be, otherwise, economically depressed and now are growing in a sustained manner, thanks to the associated benefits of tourism and air transportation.