The government is analysing extending the concession for "Capitán de Corbeta Carlos Curbelo" international airport in Laguna del Sauce (Punta del Este) now managed by the firm Consorcio Aeropuertos Internacionales Sociedad Anónima (Caisa).
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This firm forms part of the airport holding Corporación América headed by the Argentine Eduardo Eurnekian, who also runs Carrasco international airport within Uruguay.
"At this moment we are working within the sphere of the Airport Control Unit on various concessions, especially Laguna del Sauce. Within the framework of the laws and decrees we are evaluating the Caisa concession for Laguna del Sauce services" Defence Minister Jorge Menéndez announced during the 91st meeting of the Comisión Latinoamericana de Aviación Civil (CLAC), adding that the Transport and Public Works Ministries were also involved in the decision and that the analysis was “very advanced”.
CLAC is an international organisation with the objective of providing the civil aviation authorities of the member states with the appropriate structure to discuss, plan and supervise all the measures required to co-ordinate civil aviation activities. Uruguay seeks CLAC’s first vice-presidency for the 2018-2020 period.
Menéndez told El País that the concession should be renewed before March 31 when the contract signed with Caisa expires, further explaining that the length of the extension was related to infrastructural improvements of the terminal among other managerial considerations.
Among these airport improvements he included “the transfer of some internal structures which could mean some kind of difficulty for air navigation, improvements in the runways and taxiways, and bridges permitting passengers to land or embark in any weather conditions. A series of elements which would mean a great leap forward for Laguna del Sauce airport from the viewpoint of infrastructure and operational safety."
These improvements would mean a "very important investment in this new process," said Menéndez, adding that the current runways could not be expanded without a "qualitative" improvement.
The air terminal was conceded by the public tender 4/991 to "remodel, expand, maintain and partially exploit the services of Carlos Curbelo international airport".
On October 23, 1993, the concession was adjudicated to the companies Sebastián Maronese e Hijos SA, Paxport Management Inc, Norfil SA, Compañía Oriental de Transporte S.A., and London Supply S.A.C.I.F.I., which from that date onward were grouped together as "Consorcio Aeropuertos Internacionales".
The initial concession period was 20 years. The concession contract was signed on December 9, 1993. After signing the contract, the government deactivated international operations at El Jagüel municipal airport, just as it had undertaken in the tender. This determined the Laguna del Sauce concession being extended for a few more years.
On August 2, 1994, the government authorised the exclusion of the firm Maronese e Hijos from “Consorcio Aeropuertos Internacionales." On August 29, 1995, Caisa’s entry as a shareholder Corporación Financiera Internacional (CFI) while replacing Paxport Management Inc. with Paxport Laguna Inc.
The delays in deactivating El Jagüel airport for flights abroad led to the concession being extended until March 31, 2019. Corporación América went gradually buying up the Caisa shares until remaining the concession’s only shareholder.
The duty-free business passed to a Swiss company. The change of period also fixed the embarkation fee at US$ 20. An investment of half a million dollars in ILS navigational aid equipment agreed at the time was modified to a payment of five quotas of US$ 100,000 to the General Infrastructure Board (DGI in its Spanish acronym).
965 arrivals in 2017
In 2017 73,600 passengers disembarked in Laguna del Sauce, flown by Aerolíneas Argentinas, Austral, Azul, Sky, Latam, Andes, Gol, Amaszonas Uruguay and Amaszonas Paraguay. A further 73,402 passengers took off from the same airport last year. The flights arriving last year were 965 while 959 took off. In the case of general aviation, including air taxis and private aircraft, over 3,700 operations were registered. Even out of season there is a daily Aerolíneas Argentinas flight from and to Aeroparque. Amaszonas operates flights to the Argentine capital on Fridays and Sundays. Latam arrives every Thursday and Sunday from Sao Paulo.