A History of Flight Connectivity in Medellín

A History of Flight Connectivity in Medellin

TLDR? Between 2020 and 2022, flight connectivity in Medellin has improved as more than 10 international routes and almost 6 national routes have been added.

Medellin has been highlighted as a benchmark city for flight connectivity that has made significant progress over the years.

There are more and more new national and international routes that operate from the airports of this city. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

If you want to know the fascinating story behind this, keep reading to discover all the changes that have happened over the years to achieve the airports we know and love today.

Beginnings of Airports in Medellin

Beginnings of Airports in Medellin

Before we start talking about flight connectivity, we’ve got to go over the history of airports in Medellin. 

There are two airports in Medellin:

  1. Olaya Herrera Airport
  2. Jose Maria Cordova Airport

Let’s take a closer look at both of these and at how flight connectivity has changed in each one. 

Olaya Herrera Airport

Olaya Herrera Airport

The Olaya Herrera airport is the first air terminal in Medellin and is located between the Guayabal and El Poblado neighborhoods.

The airport came about because, between 1930 and 1932, three wealthy families who were part of the Colombian Air Navigation Company came up with the idea of building an airport. Their goal was to transport passengers by plane from Medellin to Puerto Berrio, a town in Antioquia.

After many studies, acquisition of land, and construction, this airport began to operate with flights from the companies SCADTA and SACO arriving from Barranquilla and Bogota.

In 1955, they rebuilt the runway to reach the 2,508 meters long by 45 meters wide that it is today. They also added an auxiliary taxiway. This allowed them to expand connections from just Barranquilla and Bogota and to add other airways around the country and internationally within South America. 

However, by 1970, the airport’s operations had become saturated again. The terminal’s size was simply no longer big enough. 

To counteract this problem, builders decided it was time to open a new airport in Rionegro, Valle de San Nicolas. As operations moved to the newer airport, the Olaya Herrera became less important. 

Instead of continuing to maintain international operations, it began to handle national and domestic routes. By 1995, it was named a national monument. 

Present Day 

Present Day

In 2022 the Olaya Herera airport reached its 90th anniversary. And, despite its reduced operations, it’s still currently one of the busiest domestic airports in Colombia.

It’s an air terminal that operates national flights and national or international charter flights with two main airlines:

  • EasyFly
  • Satena

It also operates with some travel agencies that operate with private flights, although this airport has restrictions for aircraft over 20,430 kg.

In addition to domestic routes, it currently has hangars available for aviation schools that have daily operations such as:

  • Antioquia Aviation Academy
  • Los Halcones Aviation School
  • Flying Aviation School

Jose Maria Cordova Airport

Jose Maria Cordova Airport

Medellin’s international airport was built after seeing a considerable saturation in the Olaya Herrera that signaled the need for a larger air terminal with greater capacity. 

It was built in Rionegro to avoid the complicated topography of Medellin, whose mountains can be a bit dangerous for the ascent and descent of large or heavy aircraft. There were two possible locations to build this airport between Barbosa and Rionegro, but the best site for the work was in the San Nicolas Valley, Eastern Antioquia.

The airport was finished on June 30, 1985, and shortly afterward, flight routes were properly distributed between it and Olaya Herrera.

Since 2008, different infrastructure improvement works have been carried out, as well as the adaptation of the passenger terminal, 12 new boarding bridges, and the addition of escalators.

In 2015 also, according to the Operational Plan of the José María Córdova International Airport, a modern flight departure, and arrival information system was implemented.

Present Day

Present Day

While the Olaya Herrera airport is in charge of managing regional and domestic operations, the Jose Maria Cordova airport is in charge of international and national trunk transportation.

This air terminal then has a runway with a capacity of 205,000 operations per year.

Likewise, the passenger terminal has the capacity to receive up to 17 aircraft, 10 national and 7 international, with boarding bridges.

The cargo terminal can have up to 10 aircraft in the same area and is an important space for the economy of Antioquia in terms of exporting flowers and products from eastern Antioquia and the region in general.

The runways are also used for the military since the Colombian Air Force CACOM5 is adjacent to the commercial air terminal facilities. Both military and national police aircraft arrive there.

Continued Growth of the Airports in Medellin

Continued Growth of the Airports in Medellin

Tourism in Medellin has had accelerated growth, and with it, the number of international and national routes in and out of Medellin has grown. 

In recent months, the possibility of building a second runway in this airport has been studied hard given the number of flight connections in the city and brought with them a greater flow of visitors.

The national, regional, and aeronautical authorities had predicted this intervention for 2030. However, the situation has grown so quickly that the need for this expansion is estimated to be in 2028.

You can check out more about the second runway project 

Flight Connections in Recent Years

Flight Connections in Recent Years

Between 2020 and 2022, 13 new air routes to and from Medellin were inaugurated. This has allowed the City of Eternal Spring to stand out as the Colombian city with the best air connectivity to date.

In recent years, Colombia opened 32 new international routes, of which 10 have reached Medellin.

In this sense, this city adds a total of 14 international routes to 10 different countries, with flight frequencies of up to 1,300 per week between all destinations. This has allowed the capital of Antioquia to achieve greater internationalization, allowing tourism to grow.

In addition to this, Medellin connects with 32 national destinations. Thanks to this, the National Government Tourism Agency listed Antioquia as the department that received the most visits during 2021, with a total of 120,300 international travelers.

This is how, in 5 years, Medellin has managed to go from 38 to 54 air connections between its two airports. There are 24 solely national routes at the Olaya Herrera airport and 30 routes at the Jose Maria Cordova air terminal: 15 national and 15 international.

The city has direct routes to 15 cities in 10 countries, with some in the Caribbean, Central, and North America. It also receives flights to Medellin from Europe.

Likewise, the capitals of countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Spain, and Peru connect with Medellín. So far, there have been more than 34,000 foreign visitors in 2022, according to the Colombian Immigration Office.

New International Routes to and From Medellin

New International Routes to and From Medellin

International routes in Medellin are constantly on the rise, with flight connectivity significantly improving each year.

In 2021, the following new routes to and from Medellin were added:

  • Cancun-Medellin with Wingo and Avianca
  • New York-Medellin with American Airlines
  • Punta Cana-Medellin with Avianca and Wingo
  • Santiago de Chile-Medellin with Jet SMART

In June 2022, Viva Air inaugurated the following routes:

  • Medellín-Buenos Aires
  • Medellín-São Paulo

Likewise, Avianca has integrated routes such as:

  • Medellin-Orlando
  • Medellín- San Jose
  • Medellín-Ciudad de México 
  • And return to the Medellin-Madrid route

With these new routes, the cradle of Antioquia now connects with 12 countries through 16 direct routes:

  • Mexico City and Cancun (Mexico)
  • Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and New York (United States)
  • Santiago de Chile, Lima, Panama City (South America)
  • Curaçao, Aruba, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo (Carribbean)
  • Madrid (Europe)
  • Panama City (Central America)

Airlines Operating at the Medellin Airports

Airlines Operating at the Medellin Airports

As you’ve probably guessed from the number of flight connections in and out of Medellin, lots of airlines operate here. Let’s take a look at the airlines operating at both the international and domestic airports in the city.

International Airport

Currently, and with the new routes and destinations adopted by the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, the following airlines operate in Medellin:

  • Avianca
  • Viva Air
  • Wingo 
  • EZ Air
  • Jet Air
  • Sarpa
  • Spirit
  • Jet Blue
  • Air Europa
  • Aeroméxico
  • American Airlines
  • Copa Airlines 
  • JetSmart
  • Iberia 
  • Ultra Air 

These airlines, among others, have allowed this city to connect with the world with more than 175 weekly flights with 126,000 seats available. This shows the high influx of people stepping on Antioquian soil.

Domestic Airport

Domestic Airport

From the Olaya Herrera airport, travelers have the opportunity to go to more than 40 national destinations, making Medellin the second most connected capital of Colombia. It reaches both main cities and municipalities in the five regions of the country.

Likewise, new national routes have been inaugurated in 2022, connecting the capital of Antioquia with smaller cities thanks to the EasyFly airline, such as:

  • Bahia Solano with 7 weekly flights
  • Tolu with 5 weekly flights
  • Pitalito
  • Paipa
  • La Macarena
  • Buenaventura with two weekly frequencies

In this way, the airline adds 25 different routes throughout Colombia, transporting more than 5,000 passengers per month.

It’s expected that with the new openings, up to 60,000 passengers per year will travel within Colombia.

Air Connectivity and Tourism

Air Connectivity and Tourism

After the pandemic, economic reactivation through tourism has been key for airlines, the hotel industry, and the economy of cities in general.

In fact, as of today, ProColombia has calculated an increase in frequencies on routes such as:

  • Cali-Medellín with an increase of 192%
  • Medellín-Cancún with a growth of 157%
  • Medellin-New York with an increase of 100%

This is how in the middle of 2021, Medellin recovered three international air operations, and in 2022 many have been added. As such, there has been an increase in the arrival of international tourists to the city.

By the end of 2022, an increase in tourists and visitors of around one million people is projected, which would exceed the figures from before the pandemic.

Flight Connectivity in Medellin Continues to Change

For the last two years, local and international airlines have begun to connect Medellin with new cities in different countries. As of today, Medellin is the city with the newest routes, and that number keeps growing.

This has allowed tourism to increase and the economy to grow, resulting in more and more people from different parts of the world coming to the City of Eternal Spring.

Join us, and be part of the growing tourism here in this beautiful city, and experience how flight connectivity in Medellin has come a long way. 

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