Downgrade In Safety Rating Limits Mexican AirlinesBy Jorge Ramos Zwanziger | Tue, 07/27/2021 - 17:43
The downgrade of Mexico’s air space by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is beginning to affect Mexican airlines, with Viva Aerobus reporting that two planned routes to the US have been blocked by the FAA.
Mexico’s air space lost its Category 1 ranking in May 2021 after the FAA stated that “Mexico does not meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards.” The category downgrade limits Mexican airlines from launching new routes, increasing route frequencies, and adding more capacity, among other effects. The downgrade will be in place until the Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC) retrieves the Category 1 status, which takes a year to achieve. The downgrade does not affect routes airlines already had in operations in May 2021 and the 18 months before then, which does help airlines lighten the blow.
Back in May 2021, Viva Aerobus had announced via a press release that the downgrade “will not have an effect on the routes it currently operates towards that country (the US), which represents 14 percent of its total operations.” However, just before the downgrade, the company had announced two routes to Austin, Texas, starting in June. Since the downgrade was announced in late May, the FAA did not allow the routes to operate. “This is the only negative effect for Viva in the short term. As the routes were not operational when the downgrade was announced, these two routes were the only two affected,” said a company representative to A21.
Has the Category Downgrade Been an Obstacle for Growth in the Country?
According to the Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT), between January and June, 2021 Mexican airlines transported 19.23 million domestic passengers, which translates to a recovery of 75 percent of the volume the sector saw during 1H2019, before the COVID-19 crisis. Just in June, airlines transported 3.83 million passengers, which is 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels. These numbers show that the industry in Mexico is recovering. According to SCT, the airline that has moved more people during 2021 is Volaris, with over 7 million, followed by Aeroméxico and Viva Aerobus with 5 million each. Internationally traffic is also recovering albeit at a much smaller pace. During 1H2021, international traffic was only at 50 percent of what it was in 1H2019.