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A Synopsis: The Floodgates Open on U.S.-Mexico Air Service
With a recent change to the country's safety rating, many airlines are wasting no time in adding service.
After the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed the nation’s air safety rating to a Category 1 in mid-September, Mexican airlines have been swift to add new markets. Prior to the rating upgrade, Mexican air carriers were restricted from adding new service to the U.S.
The FAA downgraded the country’s rating in May 2021, which preserved grandfathered in service, but essentially restricted any new adds or significant changes. Of course, these changes significantly hampered the growth potential of not only flag carrier Aeromexico but also low-cost carriers.
But what does the data say? The below chart depicts the total capacity – measured with Available Seat Miles (ASMs) – among the largest Mexican carriers (Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris) to the U.S. Ignoring the drop due to COVID-19 in early 2020, a modest increase in capacity existed in the first few quarters of 2019, and then a fairly flat plateau in 2021.
Comparing Q2 between 2019 and 2021, there was a modest 3% decrease in capacity. Now, with the recently announced service adds, there is a 16% increase in capacity between Q4 of 2021 and 2023. Of course, COVID-19 continued to suppress capacity in 2021. All data was obtained via Cirium Diio, so some new adds may not be reflected in these figures yet.
A Mexican Airline: Coming to a U.S. Airport Near You
With the recent change, many Mexican airlines quickly jumped on the bandwagon of either adding or resuming flights to the U.S. Services include large and medium-sized airports on both sides of the border.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s been added so far since the Sept. 14, 2023 change by the FAA:
On Monday, Mexican flag carrier Aeromexico added 17 new routes from airports across Mexico. A Skyteam member, Aeromexico will codeshare with Delta on these flights, according to a press release. It is also important to note that some of these are resumptions from several years ago, as Ishrion Aviation points out.
According to the carrier, Aeromexico will have 60 daily frequencies to the U.S. by July 2024, representing a 35% increase year-over-year with a presence in 36 American markets
From Mexico City (MEX), the airline is adding Boston, Washington-Dulles, Detroit, and Salt Lake City. Opened in 2022, Aeromexico will also be adding service from Mexico City’s Felipe Ángeles (NLU) to McAllen, Texas and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Guadalajara will also receive additional Aeromexico service to Atlanta and Detroit. Monterrey will get service to Atlanta, Salt Lake City, New York-JFK, and Los Angeles. Furthermore, Bajio, Queretaro, and Merida will all get both Atlanta and Detroit flights.
Of course, with the exception of Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington Dulles, and McAllen, most of these flights are to Delta hubs. Service on most of these routes will begin throughout 2024.
According to Ishrion Aviation, Aeromexico will also add the 737 MAX 9 on several routes to the U.S., including Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Miami. The carrier was previously prohibited from adding this aircraft on U.S. flights under the lower safety rating.
Mexican low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus also has not wasted time in adding to its route map. All from its Monterrey hub, the airline will begin flying to Austin, Denver, Miami, Oakland, and Orlando in 2024. Austin, Miami, and Orlando previously had Viva Aerobus service.
On Monday, the carrier also announced new service between Mérida and Orlando along with Miami, starting July 1 and July 2 respectively.
Another low-cost carrier, Volaris, has yet to announce any new routes. Though in a press release, the carrier stated: “As a result of the above, Volaris will follow up on the authorization procedures to open new routes to and from the United States of America, as well as to increase the number of frequencies, with the intention of increasing our service offer in said country.”
Indeed, the new Category 1 rating does open up new opportunities for service. Given airport constraints in not only Mexico City, but also many others, the carriers will be closely evaluating each market. There is a high likelihood that more routes will be added or resumed.
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