¡Viva México! The spat between the US and Mexican governments is over (surprisingly quickly), and Mexico has once again been elevated to Category 1 status by the FAA. What does that mean? Look for more flights from Mexico coming soon. In fact, Aeromexico is leading the charge.
This past summer, the FAA downgraded Mexico from Category 1 to Category 2. Why? They didn’t give details, but it’s usually because the country’s safety or security infrastructure isn’t quite up to snuff. The FAA uses this downgrade to put pressure on the country to fix the problem. What kind of pressure does it add? A lot.
When a country is downgraded to Category 2, a few really painful things happen. First, US-based airlines are not allowed to codeshare with airlines from that country. So Delta, which is in SkyTeam with Aeromexico, was not allowed to sell any codeshare flights on Aeromexico. Second, airlines based in that country are not allowed to add any new flights into the US. They can continue to fly what they have, but they can’t add anything new. That’s difficult at any time, but it was particularly difficult for Mexican airlines since Mexicana shut down in the middle of this and nobody could fill the hole.
It’s particularly frustrating because this doesn’t reflect on the airlines themselves. They could be the safest and best in the world, but as long as there’s a political spat between Mexico and the US over infrastructure, the airlines suffer. So how could concerns about a country’s infrastructure be resolved in a mere 3 or 4 months? Uh, they can’t. So there’s some crazy political backstory here, I’m sure. And the airlines (and passengers) are the hostages.
As we all know by now, Mexicana went into its death throes in August and September. When it finally shut down, that pulled a ton of capacity out between Mexico and the US and no Mexican airline could step in to fill that gap. Sure, United and American, among others in the US, added some flights from their hubs to Mexico but the Mexican airlines themselves had to sit and watch the opportunity go by. Really annoying.
Now that Mexico is once again in Category 1 status, Mexican airlines are free to expand, and codeshare as well. The Delta/Aeromexico codeshare goes back into place on December 11. Aeromexico is also permanently adding 1 new daily flight from Mexico City to New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. On January 11, the airline will add two daily flights from Mexico City to San Antonio.
Then there’s Volaris. That airline did finally get its relationship with Southwest up and running, so I would think that we could expect additional expansion soon. Right now, it’s only LA, Oakland, and San Jose in the mix. But could Chicago be far behind? Maybe Denver? Eventually, Atlanta?
And then there’s Mexicana. Though the airline has been dead for several months, efforts are underway to revive the corpse. Who knows what that will look like (if anything) at this point, but it will certainly be a lot smaller than it was.
So, stay tuned over the next few weeks as airlines look to make up for lost time here. I’m sure everyone is glad this spat is over.