Mexico’s Air Safety Rating Downgraded
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that the Mexican government fails to meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards. As a result, the FAA has reduced Mexico’s safety rating to Category 2. This is only the second time in Mexico’s history that this has occurred. The first occurred in 2010, eleven years ago.
How does this impact Mexican aviation?
Since October, there has been speculation that the FAA might downgrade Mexico’s aviation. The FAA discovered several areas of noncompliance with minimum ICAO safety standards during its reassessment of the Civil Aviation Federal Agency (AFAC, Mexico’s FAA).
A Category 2 rating indicates that the country’s laws do not include the necessary safeguards to oversee the country’s air carriers. This is not to say that Mexican airlines are unsafe.
The new rating allows Mexican airlines to continue existing service to the United States while prohibiting any new service or routes. As a result, the flights scheduled today by Aeromexico, Aeromar, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus will remain in effect while Mexico is in Category 2.
According to Cirium’s database, these airlines currently offer 5,771 monthly flights between Mexico and the United States. In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, the four airlines have already recovered 100% of their capacity.
The downgrade also affects US airlines
“US airlines will no longer be able to market and sell tickets with their names and designator codes on Mexican-operated flights. The FAA will increase its scrutiny of Mexican airline flights to the United States,” said the FAA in a statement.
This development has an impact on two airlines: Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines. The former has a joint venture agreement with Aeromexico, and the latter has a codeshare agreement with Volaris.
What do airlines have to say?
“Currently, we are operating at 113% capacity of what we had in 2019. Our operation levels in the US will remain the same until Mexico recovers its Category 1 status. As we had planned before, our growth plans will focus on the domestic and other markets we have the authorization to fly to.”
Meanwhile, ASPA, the Mexican pilots’ union association, said,
“The downgrade is for the country and the civil aviation authority, not for the Mexican airlines. We are fully committed to help the authority with our expertise and knowledge and find a solution to the findings of this audit.”
Delta’s president, Glen Hauenstein, addressed the issue earlier today. He stated that Delta would be forced to remove its flight codes from Aeromexico flights. Aeromexico can, however, continue to code on Delta flights. Members of Delta’s loyalty program may still earn SkyMiles on Aeromexico flights.
The FAA has previously downgraded Mexico’s safety rating. It occurred once in 2010. Mexico was demoted to Category 2 for four months before regaining its former status. The goal is to do the same thing this time.
The FAA has stated that it is fully committed to assisting AFAC in improving its safety oversight system. To that end, the FAA stands ready to lend expertise and resources to AFAC’s ongoing efforts to address issues identified during the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) process.
Mexican government reactions
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday urged US regulators not to downgrade the air safety rating of his country, which is heavily reliant on tourism.
“We have been complying with all the requirements. We feel that this decision should not be carried out,” he said when asked about reports that a downgrade was imminent.
Lopez Obrador said the move appeared to be aimed at helping US airlines win customers.
“They are the ones who benefit and the national airlines could be harmed,” he told reporters, but added that since Mexican carriers were mainly focused on domestic flights the impact would be limited.