After three years of construction, and many more of planning, Montevideo´s Carrasco International Airport (MVD
/ SUMU) is about to open a brand new passenger terminal building, replacing the current, 1947 vintage, facility.
The new terminal was designed by renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Vignoly, and it is truly a beautiful building. The curved roof is meant to symbolise an arch; the airport becomes Uruguay’s entry gateway.
The new terminal was officially inaugurated October 5th, with planned entry into service on November 15. Unfortunately, that date has slipped and the opening is now planned for December 15, making access to the new terminal impossible by people not involved in the project itself.
In preparation for opening, Puerta del Sur (the airport concessionaire) organized a full scale test of the new terminal (December 5th), using volunteers. The volunteers, placed on fictitious flights, were supposed to traverse the airport: making check-in, dispatching bags, proceeding through Immigration, etc… until reaching the gate, and then turn back simulating an arrival; through Immigration (again), Baggage Claim (retrieving the bags dispatched at check-in) and Customs before finalizing the process.
I was lucky to be a participant in this event.
The test was scheduled to begin at about 14:00. I was at the old terminal by 13:30, were Puerta del Sur had a pair of minivans going back and forth to the new terminal, taking the test’s participants. Anyways, most of the participants got to the new terminal by car: the parking lot of the new terminal was quite full.
The trip between the old and new terminal just took about five minutes. Soon, I found myself for the first time right in front of the new building.
I´ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Once inside the terminal, in the Arrivals level, a “Uruguay, bienvenido al mundo” (“Uruguay, welcome to the world”) sign meets you. Facing the other way, in the direction of arriving passengers, another sign says “Mundo, bienvenido a Uruguay” (“World, welcome to Uruguay”)
This is where Arriving passengers appear.
Looking in the other direction, towards the terminal’s exit, the “Mundo, bienvenido al Uruguay” (“World, welcome to Uruguay”) sign appears.
Going up the mechanical stairs to the Departures level
Check-in at the Departures level
Broader look of the Departures level
Going to the Departures level´s curbside, the terminal also looks impressive from there
Over the check in counters sits a public, enclosed “terrace”. It has got plants, a bright and spacious feeling – it includes the building’s curved roof- and, best of all, a great view of the runways. This is great, and will become a destination for itself for many people (including me)
After walking around air-side, it was time to start the test itself. For the test, a table was placed at the terminal’s entrance with two ladies giving out blank boarding passes to all the participants. In my case, I received a TACA boarding pass.
There were boarding passes of TACA, GOL, TAM, Copa and Pluna being handed out.
With the boarding passes in hand, the next task was to successfully locate the respective airline’s check in desk. By this time, the airport was already quite full of people.
Manning the TAM check-in desks were actual TAM staff, with TAM uniforms. I am not sure if the other airlines desks were manned by staff from those actual airlines.
There was a very nice atmosphere inside the airport, from both us “passengers” and staff. There was a lot of picture taking, etc…
At check in, the boarding pass was filled and I was “given” seat 10A for the imaginary MVD
flight. I also dispatched my bag. After that , I proceeded to “pay airport tax” (this was also simulated thankfully) and got there a stamp on the boarding pass stating that I had indeed paid it.
Going airside, the next step was Security (?) and Immigration. The “(?)” by Security is there because there was none. I was surprised to get to Immigration before passing Security, and then I realized that just over me was a sign stating “Seguridad/ Security”. The space for security was there, but it wasn’t yet set up. That is one thing that needs to be solved before start of operations.
Security will be located in this spot. Immigration is visible ahead.
Apparently, after going through Immigrations, passengers are released directly into the Duty Free shop, just like it is done in most airports- including MVD
's current terminal. The Duty Free shop was however closed off and in the middle of construction/ set-up; so instead we took a secondary, narrow corridor to the gates area.
The gates area is split in two by the duty free shop, that seats right in the middle of the building. Apparently, they’ve got a very nice view of the apron as well.
Duty Free Shop
Gate 6 didn’t look very ready to start handling real passengers. The VIP lounge, just by the gate, was in construction. Gate 7 was off limits, and the seating area between Gates 6 and 7 didn’t yet have any chairs.
View from Gate 6 looking towards Gate 7
Parked at the apron, at Gate 4 was CX
-BOP one of Pluna´s already retired 737-200s. The plane was there testing the new air bridges (I think). It was nice seeing it there, looking still great in PU
's old livery. In the picture, a TAM A320 can also be seen thundering off to GRU
Gate 6 corresponds to jetway 3, and gate 4 corresponds to jetway 2. (Yes, the Gate/ Jetbridge numbers do not match)
After waiting a bit at Gate 6, a flurry of announcements began. All “flights” were having gate changes – simultaneously. As it turned out, all “flights” would be departing Gate 4 now. Gate 4 is located in the other side of the terminal, across the Duty Free Shop. It was necessary again to go through the narrow corridor behind Duty Free in order to reach the new gate.
Lines at our new gate, Gate 4
The other side of the terminal looked much more ready for operations. There was no visible construction taking place, and no off limits areas. The bathrooms were finished, and the seating area was already set up. An interesting aspect of the seating area is that it incorporates several window facing seats – ideal for the enthusiast!
Seating area between gates 4 and 2. (I don´t remember what, and where, was Gate 3)
Where the VIP lounge was located in the other side, in this side there appeared to be what will become a restaurant, maybe buffet style, of some sort.
Soon, boarding for TACA 040 to Lima and connections was called. We proceeded down the jetway, and then turned into the “Arrivals” jetway. The “departure” part of the test was complete and it was now time to test Arrivals.
Going down the jetbridge
Looking back at the terminal from the jetbridge. Impressive, isn´t it?
The jetbridge finishes in a long, brightly lit corridor, as all the other jetbridges in the terminal. Walking towards the middle of the terminal, around when we were right below the Duty Free shop (I think) the corridor split in two: Montevideo final destination and Connections. In Connections there appeared to be mechanical stair linking this level with the Departures one overhead (airside). We followed the other option, leading to a stair downwards toward Immigration.
I got my boarding pass stamped there again, and then proceeded to Baggage Claim. Baggage Claim’s size is truly impressive, much bigger and spacious than Departures (Security and Immigration) above.
The bag was surely there in the belt waiting for me. Customs was the next step, where we got to X-ray our bags before going landside again, being met by the “Mundo, bienvenido a Uruguay” (World, welcome to Uruguay) sign.
In all, the new terminal is a great architecture landmark; a truly beautiful and stunning building. It will for sure open a new era in Uruguayan aviation, and I can’t wait to see it opened, whether it is the 15 of December or a later day.
[Edited 2009-12-06 11:40:05]