MEXICO CITY (CN) — Mexico won back the highest safety rating after more than two years on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Category 2 list, the FAA announced Thursday.
The recovery of Category 1 came after almost 28 months of “close work between the civil aviation authorities in both countries,” the FAA said in a statement.
Mexican airlines can now open up new routes to the United States and U.S. airlines can once again market and sell tickets with their names and designator codes on Mexican-operated flights, the administration said.
Mexico was downgraded to the FAA’s lowest safety rating in May 2021 after the administration determined its government did not meet safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Under Category 2, Mexican airlines were not able to open new routes to U.S. destinations, but could continue flights already in operation at the time of the downgrade.
The news was welcomed by airlines, trade associations and others in the aviation industry.
The International Air Transport Association welcomed the decision in a statement posted to its website, hailing the collaboration between Mexico’s Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications and Transport, its Federal Civil Aviation Authority, its federal legislature and other key stakeholders, which “led to the improvement of safety, regulatory and efficiency of Mexico’s air transport system, paving the way for the restoration of the Category 1 rating.”
Mexican airline Aeroméxico likewise hailed this collaborative work in a statement sent to Courthouse News, adding that its primary goal is to continue connecting Mexico with the world.
“The return to Category 1 allows us the possibility to reinforce this connectivity with one of the most important markets for the country, the United States,” the company said.
Mexican airline Volaris called the recovery a “great opportunity to incentivize aerial dynamism and the role of this industry as one of the main levers of economic development in both countries.”
The biggest impact of the recovery will be felt at the new Mexico City airport AIFA, which opened in March 2022, according to Rogelio Rodríguez, an aviation lawyer and former executive in Mexico’s civil aviation agency.
“It’s going to be an enormous expansion of air routes,” he said in a phone interview.
It will also secure a market for the Mexican government’s new state-owned airline, part of a push by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to expand the military’s role in tourism services, Rodríguez said.
Mexican operators are going to see “exponential growth” following the upgrade, he added.
And they have a lot to make up for. Before the downgrade, Mexican airlines enjoyed around 35% of the transnational market share with the United States, Rodríguez said. Today that market share is somewhere between 16 and 18%.
“It will be difficult for Mexican airlines to recover even 10% of this market share over the next five years,” he said. “I think the effect is irreversible.”
This effect also appears to have been intentional, he said, contending that the technical grounds for the move to Category 2 masked the economic motives behind it. The downgrade blocked Mexico from opening new routes to the United States right when people began to travel more after the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This process appears to have had technical reasons, but without a doubt there were political and economic decisions involved,” Rodríguez said. “It gave advantages to U.S. airlines. It was a protectionist measure for the American market.”Follow @@copycopeland
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