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Tocumen International Airport ( ) is an international airport located from Panama Citymarker, Panamamarker. In 2006, it underwent a major expansion and renovation program in order to modernize and improve its facilities. It is currently the only airport in Central America with two runways for use and is also the largest airport in the country and the busiest in Central America by passenger traffic.


During World War II the airport was used as a military airfield by the United States Army Air Forces Sixth Air Force. It was known as Patilla Point Airfield and was part of the defenses of the Panama Canalmarker. The 37th Pursuit Group at Albrook Fieldmarker dispersed the P-40 Warhawks of the 28th Pursuit Squadron to the base from 9 Dec 1941 though 26 Mar 1942 in the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attackmarker.

The first Tocumen International Airport was inaugurated on June 1, 1947, by then president Enrique A. Jiménez. The main administration and terminal building was inaugurated 7 years later.

The former airport, used today as a cargo terminal, was built in an area of 7.2 square kilometres and is 126 ft (38 m) above sea level.

Given the history of Panamamarker as a transit country because of its geographical location, the original terminal became too small for the demand of flights. This led to plans to an expansion of this terminal, which were never carried out. Instead, a new terminal was planned. Construction began in 1971. The Tocumen River was diverted from its original course for the construction of the new terminal.

Tocumen International Airport arrivals deck.

The new terminal, also named Tocumen International Airport, was inaugurated on August 15, 1978. The inaugural flight was on September 5 that same year.

The name of the airport was briefly changed during the 1980s to Omar Torrijos International Airport after the death of Panama's leader Omar Torrijos, but the name reverted back to Tocumen International Airport following the overthrow of Manuel Noriega as a result of the 1989 United States invasion of Panama.

Tocumen International Airport has two runways for landing, since the former terminal's runway can be used as a backup for the main runway in moments of increased traffic.

Until May 31, 2003 the Airport's administration was under the Civilian Aeronautics Direction (Today the Civilian Aeronautics Authority). Since June 1, 2003 a new administrative organization allowed the creation of a state-owned company, "Tocumen S.A.", that operates the Airport.

Air traffic

Tocumen is a large facility and center of flights heading to and from The Caribbeanmarker, South America, North America and Central America. Also, the European cities of Madridmarker and Amsterdammarker are served.

Tocumen International Airport is also the hub of Copa Airlines.

Year Passengers % Increase Cargo % Increase Movements % Increase
2003 2,145,489 11.5% 85,508 - 43,980 -
2004 2,398,443 11.8% 96,215 12.5% 45,703 3.9%
2005 2,756,948 15% 103,132 19.6% 47,873 4.6%
2006 3,215,423 16.6% 82,186 -20.3% 53,853 12.7%
2007 3,805,312 18.3% 82,463 0.3% 61,400 14.0%
2008 4,549,170 19.5% 86,588.8 4.8% 73,621 19.9%

Busiest International Routes out of Tocumen International Airport (2008)
Rank City Passengers
1 Bogota, Colombiamarker 412,893
2 Miami, Floridamarker 379,891
3 San José de Costa Ricamarker 344,774
4 Caracas, Venezuelamarker 229,267
5 Mexico City, Mexicomarker 197,054
6 Houston, Texasmarker 170,744
7 La Habana, Cubamarker 160,468
8 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republicmarker 158,209
9 Medellin, Colombiamarker 136,637
10 Lima, Perumarker 131,836
11 Buenos Aires, Argentinamarker 126,419
12 Atlanta, Georgiamarker 104,276
13 Maracaibo, Venezuelamarker 104,045
14 Newark, New Jerseymarker 98,114
15 Quito, Ecuadormarker 96,903


Airlines and destinations

Main Terminal

Cargo Airlines

Expansion 1

There were 3 projects taking place until last year for the expansion and modernization of the airport:

Passenger terminal expansion

The main passenger terminal was expanded 20,830 square meters and cost approximately US$ 21 million. It allowed the creation of new boarding spots to allow more flights to and from Panama, and also the growth of the commercial areas and internal circulation areas.
Copa Airlines Bag Drop Counter
The administration acquired 22 new boarding bridges that replaced the older 14. this also includes the addition of 6 remote positions, this allowed Tocumen Airport to have 28 boarding spots. The new installations were opened in 2006.


Another modernization project includes new equipment to give service and support to the areas of the airport.

This includes the new boarding bridges as mentioned before and also new elevators, new luggage administration systems, a new flight information system and the replacement of the air conditioners.

Renovation in the cargo terminal

The Renovation of the main old terminal of the Tocumen international airport which was built in 1947 is being used as cargo terminal, it was another project of modernization of the airport. it included the redesign of the central building, the construction of new buildings for cargo companies and among other improvements were done.

Expansion 2

Muelle Norte

The Muelle Norte is the second phase of expansion of the Tocumen International airport it consists of the construction of a building which is going to have 12 new positions the cost is approximately 60 millions.

The Muelle Norte will have 12 new positions which are going to handle the same number of airplanes, with the 22 positions and the six remote aircraft parking will be a total of 40 positions.

The new facilities are going to include the Muelle Norte, platforms, taxiway for airplanes, a new street which will connect both the cargo terminal and the administration building of the airport.

The new Muelle Norte will be joint to the actual terminal of Passengers in the North of the terminal and will have 10 moving sidewalks for passengers and 1,400 square meters for commercial areas.

It'll also include the expansion of the entrance and the exit of the luggage administration system in order to offer a better service to passengers. all of the improves will also allow the the operation of the biggest commercial airplane A380 with a specific position to it.

The tender for the design of the second phase was given to the Ecuadorian company Planman Cia Ltda, the Colombian company Aerotocumen is the company that won the tender of the construction of the Muelle Norte, The project started in the middle of October 2009 and is projected to be done by the early of 2011.

The capacity of the airport will increase from 5 million to 10 million passengers per year once the improvements are done.


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