After more than two years, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to formally announce next week that Mexico will be restored to its category one aviation security level.
The elevating of the aviation security level is expected to open new routes and additional flights of Mexican airlines to and from the United States, including flights to Cancun and the upcoming Tulum airport.
Restoring the Category One Level
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced in his Friday morning briefing that the negotiations between the United States Department of Transportation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) have led to Mexico recovering the category one aviation security level next week.
He thanked United States President Joe Biden for his assistance and declared that the formal agreement for the category change will be completed in the next few days.
In fact, Mexican President López Obrador mentioned that Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Alicia Bárcena and United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg have already been speaking about the process.
Mexican President López Obrador cited the positive relations between the two nations for the progress to achieve the changed category level from two to one.
Originally, Mexican aviation authorities thought it would only take months for Mexico to recover the category one level.
However, according to published reports on the issue, the United States Federal Aviation Administration uncovered additional issues against the Mexican aviation industry which took longer to resolve.
Impact of the Category Downgrade
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lowered the air safety rating in Mexico from category one to category two because the agency said the country did not meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for category one.
It put Mexico in the same air safety rating as countries such as Pakistan, Thailand, Ghana, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
The lowering of the air safety rating to category two prohibited the ability of Mexican airlines to add additional flights, routes, and destinations to and from the United States.
It also prohibited United States airlines from sharing seats with flights operated by Mexican airlines.
According to Mexican officials, it led to the overall competitiveness of the Mexico City International Airport (MEX) and the new Aeropuerto Internacional Felipe Ángeles (NLU).
It was believed that it could also have a negative impact on the Tulum International Airport (TUY) near Cancun, which currently has flight service from Aeroméxico Connect, Mexicana de Aviación, and Viva Aerobus scheduled to start on December 1.
What it Means for Travelers
With the recovery of category one, Mexico-based airlines such as Aeroméxico, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus will now be able to offer new routes between airports in the United States and airports in Cancun and Tulum.
Traditionally, the Mexican carriers are some of the lowest-cost air carriers to Cancun in the cities that they operate in the United States.
The opening up of new cities and additional flight offerings should help to increase capacity and lower prices in what has been a busy winter flight schedule to Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
However, it will be a matter of time before the major Mexican airlines file for approval from the United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to add any additional flights or destinations.
They will also be subject to finding available airport slots, which are already in high demand due to the increase in travel among Americans visiting countries like Mexico this year.
The best initial opportunity for the Mexican airlines will come from the ability to operate codeshare flights that are cobranded with their American alliance partners.
For example, Aeroméxico is part of the SkyTeam alliance with Delta Airlines. Meanwhile, Viva Aerobus partnered with Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines back in December 2021.
No matter what route the Mexican airlines take to reestablish themselves in the United States and expand their networks, travelers should enjoy and benefit from the added competition for flights to Cancun and the new Tulum airport.
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