Most people who fly into Panama arrive at this airport. It is the primary international airport for the country and a regional hub and the home base for Copa Airlines.
Tocumen was listed as the best airport in Central America & the Caribbean for 2023 by Skytrax World Airport Awards. You can find the listings at worldairportawards.com/a-z-airport-awards-winners-2023/.
The airport was inaugurated in 1947 shortly after the end of World War 2. It began operations even before construction was finished. Officially, it opened in 1949. Since then the airport has undergone several upgrades as this airport became more important.
The original building for administration and passengers became unable to handle the growing demand. It is now used as a freight terminal and the original runway (03L/21R) is now mostly used for private and freight flights. A new passenger building was started in 1971.
A longer runway (03R/21L) was constructed 3,050 m long by 45 m wide (10,007 ft × 148 ft). It is probably the runway you landed on when arriving Panama. To build this terminal and runway complex, they moved the Tocumen river into a new channel, sculpted the land surface and added new access roads and taxiways.
Law 23 of January 29, 2003, set a regulatory framework for the management of airports and landing strips in Panama. It resulted in the creation of Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen, S.A., also referred to as Tocumen, S.A., which currently manages the terminal. Several laws like this restructured the aeronautical sector in Panama to provides for its improvement and modernization. What would we do without our lawyers?
A second expansion phase added the north terminal with 12 new gates and 6 remote aircraft docking sites. This Muelle Norte (north platform) is linked to the main passenger terminal. It has 10 moving walkways for passengers and 1,400 m2 (15,000 sq ft) for commercial use.
The third expansion phase completed the south terminal in 2023 and added hundreds of new parking spots plus new direct-access roads and again changed the course of the Tocumen river. On 16 March 2023, the Aeropuerto metro station opened. You can now travel between Panama City and the airport by train.
Tocumen Airport mirrors the growth of Panama. Most signs and staff here are bilingual Spanish-English so you can get along in English but knowing Spanish makes your life smoother in addition to the many other benefits of being bilingual.