Rafael Hernández Airport

For other uses of the name Rafael Hernández, see Rafael Hernández (disambiguation).
Rafael Hernández Airport
Airport type Public
Owner Puerto Rico Ports Authority
Serves Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Location Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 237 ft / 72 m
Coordinates 18°29′42″N 067°07′46″W / 18.49500°N 67.12944°W / 18.49500; -67.12944Coordinates: 18°29′42″N 067°07′46″W / 18.49500°N 67.12944°W / 18.49500; -67.12944

Location in Puerto Rico

Direction Length Surface
ft m
8/26 11,702 3,567 Asphalt/Concrete
Statistics (2014)
Aircraft Operations 39,101
Passenger movement 428,413
Based aircraft 42
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
Operations from the FAA[2]
passengers from the Puerto Rico Ports Authority

Rafael Hernández Airport (IATA: BQN, ICAO: TJBQ, FAA LID: BQN) is a joint civil-military airport located in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. It is named after the Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández Marín and is the second largest international airport in Puerto Rico in the region of Porta del Sol, Puerto Rico's west coast. It is also home to Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen. Rafael Hernandez Airport mainly serves Puerto Rican westerners living in the Eastern Region of the United States. The airport previously served as a focus city for PAWA Dominicana.

In the past, the airport has been served by major carriers like Capitol Air, Pan Am, Kiwi International Air Lines, TWA, American Airlines, Delta Connection, to mention a few. Taesa flew in 1996 from Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City.[3] Mostly due to little planning, research or advertising, some of these services have been suspended. Other services have been discontinued as part of the airlines restructuring plan, or as a result of airlines going out of business.


Until 1974, the airport was an active military installation, Ramey Air Force Base, under the operational control of Strategic Air Command (SAC). Following its closure, it was converted into a civilian airport. It used to receive domestic commercial flights by Prinair as well as service from JFK International Airport in New York City with Capitol Air,[4] and 707 passenger flights from Miami with Southeast Airlines.[5] It is also noted for being the place that the large clothing company, Wrangler Jeans used to land their planes filled with company-related cargo.

In the mid and late 1970s, the Ahrens Aircraft Corporation attempted to set up operations at former USAF industrial facilities at the airport in order to manufacture the Ahrens AR 404 regional airliner, a short takeoff and landing (STOL) turboprop aircraft, with financial incentives promised by the Puerto Rican government for development. However, a subsequent government investigation over these incentives ensued and the project was cancelled after only two AR 404s were built at Rafael Hernandez Airport.

In 1988, Rafael Hernández Airport started to serve as an alternative to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, when Carnival Airlines and ATA began jet service. In the 1990s, American Airlines, later joined those two airlines, followed by Pan Am (2) and TWA. This was followed by Carnival Airlines, which provided Airbus A300 service to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey and Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[6] In the early 1990s, Carnival Airlines also operated the first intra-Puerto Rican jet service from the airport to Ponce with Boeing 727s and Airbus A300s. Another carrier, Prinair, also conducted operations at Rafael Hernández Airport, but later ceased operations following several accidents.

In 2000, North American Airlines reopened passenger service with a non-stop flight to New York JFK three times a week. Later, Continental Airlines joined North American with a daily flight to their hub in Newark. Continental has since merged with United Airlines, and the latter airline has continued to provide service. The evident success of service from Aguadilla caught the attention of Boston-Maine Airways, which resulted in opening routes to Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida and to Santo Domingo.

In 2004, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority announced that it would be remodeling and expanding BQN to accommodate more flights and passengers. An expansion of the terminal building and a new parking lot were among the projects in mind, with said expansion being inaugurated on July 12, 2005. In 2005, continuous passenger traffic growth also caught the attention of Jet Blue Airways, which opened a daily flight to their hub at New York JFK. Soon after the arrival of JetBlue, North American ceased operations. As a result, JetBlue announced that it would add a second daily flight to New York JFK.

In 2006, Delta Connection began regional jet service to Atlanta, Georgia five times a week, although this service ended on January 20, 2007 as part of Delta's restructuring plan. Later in 2007, JetBlue Airways began service to Orlando International Airport in Florida.

In the summer of 2007 Spirit Airlines announced plans to begin service from the airport to their hub in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a flight five times a week during the summer. The success of the service resulted in Spirit continuing the service beyond the summer months, although service frequency was lowered to a flight two times a week.

Since the closure of Ramey AFB in 1974, the airport's control tower had remained standing, but was non-operational, limiting the airport to UNICOM communication as an uncontrolled airport. Following refurbishment of the former USAF control tower in 2006 and 2007, the newly renovated control tower directed its first aircraft on July 5, 2007.

During the low season of 2007 there were 59 flights per week, 1 daily flight to New York City, 1 to Newark and Orlando and a flight 5 times per week to Fort Lauderdale.

Due to the success of service, Spirit has increased their frequency to daily to/from Fort Lauderdale. In addition, Spirit added a daily non-stop service to Orlando in February 2008. JetBlue continued to have two daily flights to New York City after the holiday season, adding a second daily flight to/from Orlando on May 1, 2008. On June 2, 2008, Pan Am World Airways Dominicana restored service between the airport and Santo Domingo-Las Americas as well as to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

The capacity of the airport and its role as the main gateway to Porta del Sol has led local officials to take the position that the airport is extremely underserved in a region which accounts for one third of Puerto Rico's total population, with the mayor of Aguadilla asking for the airport to be transferred to the city on several occasions.

In late January 2011, the airport hosted sea level tests for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

On February 20, 2012, it was announced by both the mayor of Aguadilla and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce that the airport will be designated a "free trade zone" (FTZ), as are many other airports in the U.S., a move that is believed will improve the development of the airport and surrounding areas.

On April 10, 2014, it was announced by Lufthansa Technik the creation of a Maintenance Repairing Operations center (MRO) in the airport. This will create operations for maintenance of Lufthansa Aircraft flying on the Americas, starting with 2 reconditioning lines by C and D checks for the Airbus A320, with plans to expand up to 5 reconditioning lines.[7]


Rafael Hernández Airport covers an area of 1600 acres. The airport and its runway were originally built in 1940 as part of the Borinquen Field complex, a U.S. Army Air Corps, later U.S. Army Air Forces installation. With the establishment of an independent United States Air Force in 1947, the complex was renamed Ramey Air Force Base in 1948. Ramey AFB was home to a Strategic Air Command bombardment wing and housed a number of B-36 Peacemaker intercontinental bombers. The B-36s were later B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers and KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, while a tenant weather reconnaissance squadron operated WB-47 Stratojet and WC-130 Hercules aircraft. Due to the size and weight of the B-36, the runway at Ramey had to be built to a length of 11,702 ft and a width of 200 ft, added an 870 ft Blast Pad at each end and a 50 ft shoulder on each side.

North Side

The north side of the airport consists of a passenger terminal with an international side capable of handling flights of over 200 passengers. It also hosts the Main Cargo Terminal, the FedEx Terminal, and the General Aviation Terminal. The north side also houses the Copeca Jet Center Executive Terminal, as well as five service hangars. The military side of the airport is also located on the north side, housing Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, a United States Coast Guard facility, as well as the 141st Air Control Squadron (which operates at the Punta Borinquen Radar Station), a non-flying unit of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.

South Side

The south side of the airport is the largest portion of the airport, but is currently undeveloped. Since the airport was transferred from the U.S. Air Force and the General Services Administration (GSA) to Puerto Rico Port Authority in 1973, the south side has been the object of various disputes and competing political campaign promises by local elected officials and local political candidates. Despite such promises over the past four decades, the south side remains undeveloped. Under the administration of Sila M. Calderón and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, a master plan was conceived to turn the south side into an air cargo hub for the Caribbean, but local residents objected to the use of the south side for cargo rather than a modern passenger terminal.

Passenger Terminal

The passenger terminal was recently upgraded to include air conditioning, more space for modern airline ticket counters and car rental counters. It consists of two "gates," Gate 14 and Gate 15. Gate 15 is use for departures while Gate 14 is use for arrivals. The terminal is divided into two sections, domestic and the international, with the domestic side equipped with a United States Department of Agriculture facility, while the international side contains a United States Customs inspection facility capable of handling up to 200 passengers at any one time.

Cargo Terminal

The cargo section of the airport is divided in two sections, the Main Terminal and the FedEx Terminal. The FedEx Terminal is home to FedEx and its local affiliates. Talks are currently going for FedEx to increase their operations at Rafael Hernandez Airport and turn Aguadilla in a hub and distribution center for the Caribbean.[8] The remaining Cargo Carriers are located in the Main Terminal.

Future expansion

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a master plan to redevelop the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla that will involve an investment of $1 billion over the next 20 years. PRPA plans call for the redevelopment of the Aguadilla airport on a scale that will rival LMM. The Aguadilla airport currently has two commercial passenger gates. The master plan calls for a total of 30 commercial passenger gates, 12 shy of the 42 commercial passenger gates that currently exist at LMM.[9]

There are plans to expand the road that give access to the airport.[10]

There are official plans to renovate the runway en route to house FedEx expansion.[11]

Airlines and destinations


JetBlue Airways Fort Lauderdale, New York–JFK, Orlando
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale
United Airlines Newark

JetBlue studied expansion for the 3 main airports in Puerto Rico for 2011 (Aguadilla, Ponce, and San Juan) & is now the only airline that operates in all three airports. In the past American Airlines offered service to their hub in Miami from Rafael Hernandez Airport. Miami, as well as other popular routes, currently lacks service from the airport. These markets include but are not limited to Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Hartford, and Baltimore. These cities are home to some of the largest Puerto Rican communities in the United States, many of whom have ties to Aguadilla and the surrounding region.


Ameriflight Aruba, Barbados, Caracas, Curaçao, Grenada, Port of Spain, Providenciales, San Juan, Santiago de los Caballeros, St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. Lucia
Atlas Air Charters: Dakar, Liege
Cargolux Amsterdam, Atlanta, Bogotá, Luxembourg, Santiago de Chile
Contract Air Cargo Santiago de los Caballeros, Santo Domingo
Emirates SkyCargo Amsterdam, Quito
FedEx Express Memphis
FedEx Feeder
operated by Mountain Air Cargo
Port of Spain, Providenciales, Santiago de los Caballeros, Santo Domingo
Martinair Amsterdam, Bogotá, Miami, Quito
Mountain Air Cargo Port of Spain, Providenciales, Santiago de los Caballeros, Santo Domingo


This table shows the continuous growth of passenger traffic at the airport since 2001, but affected in 2009 by the lack of new flights:[12][13][14][15] For year 2007 the airport transported 400,473 passengers, nearly a 500% increase in five years. Rafael Hernández Airport has an average of 47 regular passengers flights per week.

Carrier shares (April 2015 – March 2016)[16]
Carrier Passengers (arriving and departing)
JetBlue Airways
United Airlines
Spirit Airlines
Top U.S. passenger destinations (departing only) (April 2015 – March 2016)[16]
Rank City Airport Passengers
1 New York, NY John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) 65,620
2 Orlando, FL Orlando International Airport (MCO) 64,470
3 Newark, NJ Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) 52,680
4 Fort Lauderdale, FL Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport (FLL) 32,420


The airport can be accessed via two highways from PR-2.

Accidents and incidents


  1. FAA Airport Master Record for BQN (Form 5010 PDF), retrieved April 15, 2014
  2. Air Traffic Activity System
  3. "MEXI96intro". www.departedflights.com. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  4. "CL120182". www.departedflights.com. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  5. "La Floridiana by William Moriaty - Nolan's Pop Culture Review #219". www.crazedfanboy.com. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  6. Lufthansa Press Release, Apr 10, 2014 New overhaul site in Puerto Rico for short/medium-haul aircraft
  7. "FedEx looks to make Aguadilla airport Caribbean distribution hub". www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  8. "Caribbean Business Pr.". www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  9. "Camaradere Presentantes" (PDF). www.camaraderepresentantes.org. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  10. "Partnering with private sector for major projects". www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  11. Passenger Movement Through Regional Airports 2001–2006 Puerto Rico Ports Authority
  12. Passenger Movement Through Regional Airports 2002–2007 Puerto Rico Ports Authority
  13. Rafael Hernández Airport – Passenger Traffic 2008–2009 Puerto Rico Ports Authority
  14. Carga y pasajeros aéreos y marítimos Instituto de Estadísticas de Puerto Rico
  15. 1 2 "Aguadilla, PR: Rafael Hernández (BQN)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), U.S. Department of Transportation. June 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  16. "N136FS Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  17. Hradecky, Simon (April 27, 2009). "Accident: Four Star Cargo DC3 at San Juan on Apr 26th 2009, cockpit burned off airframe". The Aviation Herald. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  18. http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19920203-0

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