Some good news through from Peru this week, as it looks like the long awaited night flights to Cusco will be going ahead next month after a long period of consultation and planning. The close of operations at Velasco Astete airport will be extended from 5pm to 7:45pm from the end of September meaning that in theory another 15 flights could be squeezed in between the 5 different airlines operating out of Cusco at the moment.
In practice, however, only LANPeru aircraft have the up-to-date RNP Satellite navigation systems which are required for night flights to Cusco, and at the moment they are only planning a single extra flight a day, but it seems clear that once things are bedded in, and once other airlines upgrade their aircraft we will see many more evening flights – particularly between Cusco and Lima, raising the tantalising possibility of being able to get back from Machu Picchu to Lima in the same day – something which is almost impossible at the moment.
Allowing evening flights to Cusco has always been controversial in Cusco because of atmospheric conditions due to the high altitude and also because the airport is in a quite densely urban area. However, there was an announcement last week from Minster Carlos Paredes that the concession to build a brand-new airport outside Cusco near Chinchero in the Sacred Valley will be allocated at the start of 2014 – apparently 22 different companies are bidding for it so there’s clearly a lot of interest in getting that done.
We do have to say that we think an airport in the Sacred Valley makes sense for all sorts of reasons, but we wonder if all those extra tourists will actually spend much time in Cusco? If you’re landing in the Sacred Valley anyway, it’s going to be very tempting to base yourself there at one of the lovely hotels and then just do day trips to Cusco and Machu Picchu from there… It might be a case of being careful what you wish for, Mr Paredes…