The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shifts its focus from Mexico's skies to its Supreme Court. As the FAA closely monitors legal challenges to recent Civil Aviation Law reforms, the controversial session's hasty approval in the Senate has raised eyebrows. With some of these challenges already admitted for review and others in the notification process, the primary argument revolves around procedural violations. However, the contentious reforms also question the constitutionality of expanding the military's role in Mexican airspace surveillance and security, granting more authority to the Armed Forces in this strategic sector.
These legal proceedings, now before Mexico’s highest court, come at a crucial moment as the FAA prepares to decide whether to reinstate Mexico's Category 1 aviation safety rating. Mexico’s current Category 2 rating puts it alongside countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, Venezuela and several Caribbean islands. While Mexican authorities had anticipated regaining the highest safety rating this month by addressing over 200 observations from their US counterparts, these new lawsuits before the Judiciary have added complexity to the situation.
Sources in the aviation sector disclosed that the US Department of Transportation had raised concerns weeks ago regarding challenges to recent Mexican reforms. A delegation of Mexican officials also traveled to Washington to address the FAA's questions firsthand.
Mexico has spent two years striving to reclaim its Category 1 aviation safety rating, which it lost in 2021. The downgrade restricts Mexican airlines from opening new routes to the US, a limitation not overlooked by US competitors. To regain the desired rating, the FAA demanded increased inspectors for certain aircraft, updated training programs and modifications to the Civil Aviation Law.
Some argue that the safety rating has become a political matter, as the US government has no urgency due to decreased market share of Mexican airlines in the US. Representatives from MORENA and its allies argued that the reforms were necessary to reclaim the Category 1 safety rating. However, Rogelio Rodríguez, Aeronautical Law Expert, UNAM, says that this reform was not explicitly required to improve the country's evaluation. The FAA's main concern is to ensure Mexico meets the highest training, equipment and process standards.
Economic analyst Fernando Gómez Suárez attributes the degradation largely to budget cuts in training and air inspection. The uncertainty surrounding the safety rating persists and US airlines continue to dominate the US-Mexico market.
The Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SICT) asserts that Mexico has satisfactorily addressed 100% of the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) audit's concerns and awaits a final ruling. Federal authorities estimate an increase of up to 1 million additional passengers if the Category 1 rating is reinstated. However, the ultimate decision lies with the US.