Everyday Chile

Fun facts About Chile’s Most Important Airport

Most people know Chile’s most important international Airport as Santiago International Airport or Nuevo Pudahuel Airport. But did you know that it’s official name is...

Most people know Chile’s most important international Airport as Santiago International Airport or Nuevo Pudahuel Airport. But did you know that it’s official name is Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. So who is this Comodoro, Commodore in English, and why do we confuse the name so much.

Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez

Arturo Merino Benítez is one of the leading figures in aviation in Chile and has been recognized for his outstanding work in the development of the aeronautics of his country. He founded LAN Chile in 1929 where he worked and developed the first airline in the country until 1938 and later returned as Executive Vice President between 1952 and 1954.

He also founded the Chilean Air Force in 1930 where he was the first commanding aviation officer. He was the first to land in San Pedro de Atacama, the highest altitude airfield at that time, and tried to create the route to the Magallanes region.

To add to his list of accomplishments, he also founded the Club Aéreo de Chile, (The Chile Air Club) in May 1928, which is known today as the Club Aéreo de Santiago (Santiago Air Club). This club has as Mission to promote Civil Aviation in the country and provide the reserve of pilots through its training and improvement courses.

Why So Many Names For One Airport?

Well, we need to go back a bit to understand why people call the airport by different names.

Los Cerrillos International Airport was the main international airport for Chile until 1967 it was no longer sufficient for the amount of traffic that was coming into the country, so the idea of building a new enclosure to house national and international flights was forged.

That’s when Pudahuel International Airport was inaugurated and later was changed to “Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport” in 1980 to pay homage to the man who paved the way for aviation in Chile.

Throughout the 90’s the international airport receive little to no upgrades or makeovers which left it behind the times when compared to other international airports in Latin America. A new international wing was built in 1994 but was it wasn’t enough and in 2001, the east connected with the national terminal and that’s where we are today.

Now, with the arrival of Nuevo Pudahuel, the Santiago International Airport will once again experience modifications in its image and operation with the aim of providing a better service to passengers and all the players in the industry, offering high-quality comforts and effective and top-level facilities. By 2020, the works for the expansion and renovation of the Arturo Merino Benítez airport will be completed. The airport will be able to receive 30 million passengers, double of what it can at this moment.

The Debate to Change the Name:

Since 2010, several bills have been presented with no success to the National Congress to change the name of the airport to Pablo Neruda, Nobel prize-winning poet that receives about 400.000 visitors to his homes or anything related to him.  

The Air Force suggests that it’s not a good idea to change the name because of all the costs associated to name changes on an international level and have proposed to change the names of the terminals instead of the entire airport.

What do you think? Should the airport get a new change of name along with its new changes? Let us know in the comments below!


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