Mexico may not be able to recover its Category 1 status with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until the end of the year. According to a top member of the Mexican Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation (SICT), the country could regain its Category 1 status until November. What does this mean for the Mexican airlines? Let’s find out.
A year and a half in Category 2?
The FAA downgraded Mexico’s safety rating in May 2021 after finding out the Mexican government does not meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards.
The Mexican government pledged to work effectively to recover the previous Category 1 status following the announcement. Being downgraded to Category 2 status heavily restricts the Mexican air carriers’ plans to add service to the United States; it prohibits new services and routes.
Nonetheless, a year has gone by, and Mexico remains in Category 2 status. Moreover, it is very likely, that the Mexican government will remain downgraded until the end of this year. In an interview with local media outlet El Financiero, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, undersecretary of Transportation, said,
“I think that the recovery will be achieved by September or by the end of November. I’m an optimistic person, and I believe it will come in September, but the pessimists say it will be in November.”
Last week, the Mexican airline industry and the government had a meeting to discuss several developments, including an IFALPA letter raising its concerns with the local air traffic control training and a Volaris incident upon landing in Mexico City. During this meeting, both parties agreed on the importance of regaining Category 1 status as soon as possible.
How does this impact the Mexican airlines?
Being unable to recover Category 1 status is profoundly impacting the Mexican aviation industry.
According to Fernando Gómez, an aviation analyst, the Mexican carriers serving the US market (Aeromar, Aeroméxico, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris) have lost around five billion pesos (approximately US$242 million) in capacity that could have been allocated to flights to this country.
In the meantime, the US carriers serving Mexico have been increasing their number of services and overall market share. The Mexican airlines have lost approximately 14% of the passenger market share to US airlines in the last year.
Nonetheless, US carriers are also impacted by the degradation. They can’t fully operate their codeshare agreements (Aeromexico and Delta; Volaris and Frontier) nor add new partnerships (the proposed Allegiant-Viva Aerobus investment).
Despite the seeming goodwill from the Mexican airline industry and government to work together towards regaining the Category 1 status, Mexico faces many challenges.
Among them are the current concerns regarding the new airspace configuration in Mexico City.
Last week, IFALPA released a safety bulletin noting its concerns around several incidents involving aircraft arriving at Mexico City Benito Juárez International (MEX). Some airplanes have experienced low fuel states due to unplanned holding, diversions, and Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) alerts. The association noted that one flight “almost had a Controlled Flight into Terrain.”
Moreover, in a matter of days, two Volaris aircraft were close to colliding with each other in Mexico City. An Airbus A320neo from Volaris had to abort a landing at runway 05L in MEX to avoid colliding with another Volaris aircraft already on the same runway with clearance to take off.
When do you expect Mexico to regain its Category 1 status? Let us know in the comments below.
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