El Salvador International Airport

  (Redirected from Comalapa International Airport)

El Salvador International Airport Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de El Salvador San Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez), (IATA: SAL, ICAO: MSLP), previously known as Comalapa International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de Comalapa) and also known as the Comapala Air Base (Base Aerea de Comalapa) by the military,[2] is an joint-use civilian and military airport that serves San Salvador, El Salvador. It is located in the south central area of the country, in the city of San Luis Talpa, Department of La Paz, and occupies a triangular plain of 2519.8 acres, which borders the Pacific Ocean to the south, to the east with the Jiboa River, and to the northwest with the coastal highway. Being close to sea level, it allows aircraft to operate efficiently at maximum capacity. It is connected to the capital of San Salvador, El Salvador through a modern four-lane motorway, with 42 kilometers (26 miles) travel in an average time of 30 minutes.

El Salvador International Airport

Aeropuerto Internacional de El Salvador
Airport typeMilitary/Public
OperatorAutonomous Port Executive Commission
ServesSan Salvador, El Salvador
LocationSan Luis Talpa
Opened31 January 1980 (1980-01-31)
Hub for
Time zoneCST (UTC−06:00)
Elevation AMSL31 m / 102 ft
Coordinates13°26′27″N 89°03′20″W / 13.44083°N 89.05556°W / 13.44083; -89.05556Coordinates: 13°26′27″N 89°03′20″W / 13.44083°N 89.05556°W / 13.44083; -89.05556
SAL is located in El Salvador
Location in El Salvador
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 3,200 10,499 Asphalt
18/36 (Closed) 800 2,625 Asphalt
Statistics (2020)
Total passengers1,089,705
AIP at COCESNA[1] and DAFIF[2]
Passengers and aircraft from airport website[3][4]

It is the third of Central America in movement of passengers with 3,411,015 annually, counted without methodology, suggested by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). It is classified as category 1 by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States (FAA) and is certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Being the first in the isthmus to achieve these certifications[5] In the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2015 it was recognized as the third best airport in Central America and the Caribbean.[6] According to the World Economic Forum, it is the second in the region with the most competitive infrastructure achieving a score of 4.8 – 7.0 being the highest score – exceeded only by Panama (6.2).[7] In addition, ICAO recognizes it as one of the airports with the best security standards in the continent, only exceeded by United States and Canada.


The airport was built in the late 1970s to replace its predecessor, Ilopango International Airport, which is now used for regional, air taxi, military, and charter aviation. The airport was built on the initiative and request of the then President, Colonel Arturo Armando Molina. Funding for this project was provided through the Government of Japan, Engineering and building came under the direction of Hazama Ando (then Hazama Gumi). The electrical work for all lighting and communications was completed by Toshiba (then Tokyo Shibaura Electric). The Airport entered in operation on 31 January 1980 as Cuscatlán International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Cuscatlán), with its first flight being a TACA airliner bound for Guatemala City.

In 1995, the Salvadoran company B&B Arquitectos Asociados designed the expansion of waiting rooms and boarding bridges, of which only the area located to the west was built. The airport is the only connection center in Central America, or hub, for the airline Avianca, and also serves other airlines that fly to almost 30 destinations between Central America, North America, South America and Europe. Since 1998 when the first expansion of the airport occurred (AIES II), the airport has been suffering from saturation in areas of check-in, screening, immigration and baggage as it continues to serve more than 2 million passengers arriving each year. In late 2012, the Autonomous Port Executive Commission (CEPA) began their rehabilitation, modernization and optimization project for the airport, which was completed in April 2015.

On 16 January 2014, El Salvador President Mauricio Funes announced in San Salvador's Presidential House the name of El Salvador International Airport after Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, but it is still commonly known as El Salvador International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de El Salvador). The Legislature of El Salvador approved the name change on 19 March 2014, without the vote of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) or the National Coalition Party (PCN), to Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport. On 24 March 2014, Funes unveiled a ceremonial plaque to mark the official renaming. The airport was renamed to Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport on 29 October 2018 by the Commission of Culture and Education after Romero was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church on 14 October of the same year.[8]


Expanding the International Airport of El Salvador (AIES) will cost $492.7 million and will occur in four phases from 2014, as provided by new master plan for development of the terminal, which was presented by the CEPA in December 2013. Unlike the Master Plan from 2007 by Airports of Paris, the new proposal by Kimley-Horn does not include building a new passenger terminal. Instead, it will restore and rehabilitate and expand the terminal. The new renovated terminal will have a three-story building where it will separate the traffic flows of passengers arriving and departing.

  • Expansion Phase I (2014–2017)
Includes the expansion of a passenger terminal at 45,000 square meters, on the south side of the terminal, which will boost its current capacity of 1.6 through 3.6 million passengers. At this stage, creation of more businesses, parking lot improvements, refurbishment of the check in-area, landscaping, improvements to surrounding streets, signage purchase and new lighting systems are also contemplated. Also in the works are plans to add equipment for the new cargo terminal. Additionally planned is to develop 80.9 acres of surrounding areas for interested companies potentially to move into the vicinity of the airport. This phase will cost approximately US$115.5 million.
  • Expansion Phase II (2018–2020)
Phase II includes the construction of seven additional gatehouses for passengers, as well as new aircraft parking positions to exceed more than 20 new gates. This phase will cost approximately US$100.9 million.
  • Expansion Phase III and Phase IV
According to CEPA, Phase III and IV are of "medium and long term", which consider extensions depending on future demand at the airport. Phase III will invest US$78.3 million and Phase IV will invest US$198.5 million. During this stage, CEPA is planning and projecting to construct a new train station within the airport. This will allow passengers to transit to places like San Salvador, San Miguel and La Unión. By then, the airport is projected to have 50 gates and it is expected the airport would be capable of receiving 30 million passengers.

Airport infrastructureEdit

El Salvador International Airport corridor.
Gate 4 at El Salvador International Airport.
Main corridor at El Salvador International Airport.
View of El Salvador International Airport.
El Salvador International Airport.

Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport (or locally known as Comalapa International Airport) serves as the main hub for TACA Airlines, now Avianca El Salvador, and Volaris El Salvador. The cargo terminal, located a few dozen meters west of the passenger terminal, handles millions of tons of cargo each year. Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport is located about 50 km (31 mi) from the city of San Salvador. Roads connect the airport with the city. It handles international flights to Central America, North America, South America and Europe including daily flights to Spain.

When the airport was built, it originally had only 7 gates. It was designed to handle around 400,000 passengers a year, but the high increase of passengers in the last 15 years brought the airport to its maximum capacity. The airport has had two main expansions in the last decade or so. In its first phase (named AIES I), the airport grew from 7 boarding gates to 12, and later the second phase, AIES II, added 5 more gates bringing the total to 17. Along with new gates, new expanded passenger waiting areas were built. Even though all these expansions have been made, the airport once again has reached the peak of its capacity, handling over 2 million passengers in 2006.

There are several drug enforcement agents conducting random security checks and interviews of travelers at the airport. These agents can be identified due to the items they wear such as a fanny pack, either around the waist or over the shoulder. They also carry an airport access identification card around the neck. One side of the badge carrier shows the airport identification and access card with their photo, the other side of the carrier has the Salvadorean drug enforcement agency official badge.

The airport has a main runway (07/25) 3,200 m × 45 m (10,499 ft × 148 ft),[2] with an effective running surface of 45 m (148 ft) and 7.5 m (25 ft) shoulders. Parallel to the main track and the same length as this, is the taxiway Alpha, which is connected to the track through six starts. For the use of small aircraft, there is also a secondary runway built (18/36), 800 m × 23 m (2,625 ft × 75 ft),[2] which is currently used for parking of "long life" for aircraft that require it. Gates for heavy aircraft are available.

The platform of the Passenger Terminal Building (ETP) has twenty three aircraft parking positions, fourteen of which have boarding bridges, which connect the aircraft directly to the waiting rooms. The nine remaining positions are "remote", i.e., passengers who disembark at any of them are transferred to the ETP through aerobuses. The remote gates are used mostly by turboprop aircraft. The ETP has a total constructed area of 34,380 m2 (370,100 sq ft), which houses the waiting rooms and corridors, immigration and customs areas and a variety of shops. The runway is capable of handling landings and takeoffs by Boeing 747 and Boeing 777 aircraft. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen made an official diplomatic tour of Central America in an Eva Air B777-300ER aircraft.

The platform of the Cargo Terminal Building (ETC) has three positions for cargo aircraft parking, and also has a platform for the maintenance of five aircraft if required, just in front of hangars Aeromantenimiento (AEROMAN), a modern repairs workshop. The ETC has a total built area, comprising warehouses and offices, of 10,286 m2 (110,720 sq ft).


The airport's modern facilities include duty-free shops, fast food and full-service restaurants, bars, air conditioned areas, tourist facilities, car rental, and spacious waiting rooms. There is space for 17 airplanes in the main terminal, 3 in the cargo terminal, 37 in Aeromantenimiento, S.A., and around 20 in the "Long Term Parking" which is runway 18/36. 94.5% of the airport's flights are on time (2005 data). The airport and runway have been closed at least 10 times in the almost quarter century since opening. They were closed for several hours following the devastating earthquake of 2001, followed up with minor repairs to the east end of the runway. They were closed again for several hours in 2005 due to Hurricane Stan. Although the airport is located near the Pacific Ocean, storms and hurricanes are not frequent.

There is Wi-Fi availability throughout much of the airport via Claro El Salvador. Near Gate 17, a café called "The Coffee Cup" has free Wi-Fi for all customers.

Shops & restaurantsEdit

Airport passengers can make purchases from a wide range of duty-free shopping, including clothing, perfume, and spirits. There are also a variety of craft shops and restaurants. Other services include twelve car rental companies. Hotel chains such as Marriott International, Radisson, InterContinental, Hilton, Terrace, and Comfort offer representative and check-in desks at the airport.


The International Airport of El Salvador, based in the town of San Luis Talpa, La Paz, received an international certification from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), after an investment of $8 million and a process of four years and two extensions.

The document credits the Salvadorian airport terminal with compliance with all safety regulations issued under the Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), on fire control and health care, removal of rubber from the runways, lights and safety signs.

The certification will enable El Salvador to keep the category 1 status from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. "From the start of operations of the airport in January 1980, the terminal has been characterized by its safety," said Ricardo Sauerbrey, head of the Salvadorian terminal.

Airlines and destinationsEdit

Aeroméxico Connect Mexico City
Air Transat Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau (begins 23 December 2021)
American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Avianca Bogotá
Avianca Costa Rica San José de Costa Rica
Avianca El Salvador Bogotá, Dallas/Fort Worth, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Houston–Intercontinental, Lima (resumes 17 December 2021),[9] Los Angeles, Managua, Mexico City, Miami, New York–JFK, Panama City–Tocumen,[10] Ontario (CA), Quito, San Francisco, San José de Costa Rica, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, Toronto–Pearson, Washington–Dulles
Copa Airlines Panama City–Tocumen
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York–JFK
Frontier Airlines Orlando[11]
Iberia Madrid1
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Intercontinental, Miami (begins 6 January 2022),[12] Orlando
Transportes Aéreos de El Salvador Charter: San Salvador–Ilopango
Transportes Aéreos Guatemaltecos Guatemala City, Roatán, Tegucigalpa
United Airlines Houston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, Washington–Dulles
Volaris Costa Rica Guatemala City, Los Angeles, New York–JFK, San José de Costa Rica, Washington–Dulles
Volaris El Salvador Cancún,[13] Mexico City, San Pedro Sula[14]

^1 Iberia flight from Madrid to San Salvador makes a stop in Guatemala City, but the airline does not have traffic rights to transport passengers solely between Guatemala City and San Salvador.


Amerijet Miami
DHL Guatemala City, Panama City–Tocumen
UPS Airlines Miami


Boeing 737-800 of United on gate 10 at Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport, in 2018 and 2019 it was the second largest airline in the airport, behind Avianca El Salvador

Annual passenger traffic at SAL airport. See source Wikidata query.

Busiest routesEdit

Busiest international routes from El Salvador International Airport (2018)[15]
Rank City Passengers Ranking Airline(s)
1   Los Angeles, California 318,459   Avianca Costa Rica, Avianca El Salvador, Delta Air Lines, Volaris Costa Rica, United Airlines
2   Houston, Texas 286,690   Avianca El Salvador, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines
3   Washington, D.C. 189,559   Avianca El Salvador, Volaris Costa Rica
4   Panama City, Panamá 164,304   Avianca El Salvador, Copa Airlines
5   Miami, Florida 165,535   American Airlines, Avianca El Salvador
6   San José, Costa Rica 129,868   Avianca Costa Rica, Avianca El Salvador, Volaris Costa Rica
7   New York, New York 110,680   Avianca Costa Rica, Avianca El Salvador, Volaris Costa Rica
8   Atlanta, Georgia 105,110   Delta Air Lines
9   Mexico City, Mexico 105,682   Aeroméxico Connect, Avianca El Salvador
10   San Francisco, California 86,758   Avianca El Salvador

Airline market shareEdit

Top Airlines at SAL
(January 2019 – December 2019)[15]
Rank Airline Passengers Percent of market share
1   Avianca El Salvador 838,863 34.1%
2   United Airlines 286,634 11.6%
3   Avianca Costa Rica 260,241 10.6%
4   Volaris Costa Rica 213,781 8.7%
5   American Airlines 156,239 6.3%

Accidents and incidentsEdit

Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport hasn't had any fatalities or accidents, however, there has been one emergency landing from a flight passing near the airport.

  • In 2001, El Salvador experienced an earthquake (7.6 in the Richter scale). El Salvador International Airport (SAL) closed several hours due to airport damage, all damage was successfully repaired.
  • November 2013, A Copa Airlines Flight from Los Angeles with destination to Panama City, Panama, had to perform an emergency landing at El Salvador International Airport due to technical problems.
  • On 29 December 2013, flights to/from Honduras and Nicaragua were suspended due to the eruption of the Chaparrastique Volcano (San Miguel Volcano), which caused an ash plume that had a 10 kilometers height. Flights to and from Honduras and Nicaragua resumed when it was safe to fly by and the Yellow and Orange Alerts were gone; by 5 January 2014 all flights were resumed.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "AIS – MSLP – EL SALVADOR". cocesna.org. Archived from the original on 27 July 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Airport Information for MSLP". worldaerodata.com. World Aero Data. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link) Data current as of October 2006.
  3. ^ "..:: Comisión Ejecutiva Portuaria Autónoma – CEPA ::." Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  4. ^ "..:: Comisión Ejecutiva Portuaria Autónoma – CEPA ::." Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Comalapa Airport receives International Security Certificate". La Prensa Gráfica (in Spanish). 18 December 2009. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Top 10 Best Airports in Central America and Caribbean". Revista Estrategia & Negocios (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  7. ^ Summa, Editor (27 October 2015). "¿Quién tiene la peor y mejor infraestructura de transporte en Centroamérica?". Revista Summa (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 July 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Alvarenga, Marilú (29 October 2018). "San Óscar Arnulfo Romero se Llamará el Aeropuerto Internacional" [The International Airport will be Called Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero]. asamblea.gob.sv. Legislative Assembly of El Salvador. Archived from the original on 14 February 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Avianca strengthens connectivity from Central America with the operation of routes to the United States". Periódico Digital (in Spanish). September 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  11. ^ "Frontier Airlines Announces 20 Nonstop Routes, Including 5 New Destinations". Frontier Newsroom. 27 July 2021. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Spirit Airlines makes MIA debut with first flights planned for October". Miami Herald. June 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Volaris announces new routes between Mexico and El Salvador". EnElAire (in Spanish). June 2021. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  14. ^ "Volaris signs agreement to start operations in Honduras". Transponder1200 (in Spanish). August 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Statistic yearbook 2019" (in Spanish). Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma. January 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2020.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport at Wikimedia Commons