Tuesday, June 18, 2024

AMLO proposes allowing foreign airlines to fly domestic routes to cut costs for passengers

The federal government could allow foreign airlines to operate domestic routes in Mexico in order to put downward pressure on the cost of air travel.

Mexican law currently prohibits foreign carriers from flying between Mexican destinations, but President López Obrador on Tuesday proposed doing away with the restriction.

Suggesting ways in which competition in the domestic air travel market could be increased in order to “help control prices,” López Obrador said that the government could change the law to allow foreign airlines to fly routes within the country.

“What would that mean? More competition,” he told reporters at his regular news conference.

“… What should a government care about? People’s finances,” López Obrador said before questioning why flying from Mexico City to Hermosillo, Sonora, can cost as much as traveling to Lisbon, Portugal.

“So we’re going to open up [to more] competition. That’s democracy. … The important thing with democracy is for there to be competition, … there shouldn’t be monopolies,” he said. “… We’re going to attend [to the problem of expensive air travel]; we’re going to solve it.”

López Obrador’s proposal came three weeks after he confirmed that the government is considering the creation of a state-owned commercial airline to be operated by the army. In addition to wanting lower prices for air travel, the president – a frequent flyer on commercial airlines himself – wants airlines to fly to more destinations within Mexico.

“There are a lot of places that can’t be reached by plane because they’re not served by the current airlines,” he said on Oct. 4. “… There are cities where there were flights before but now there are none.”

A waiting area inside the Felipe Ángeles International Airport, which opened in March. Gobierno de México

López Obrador also said he is frustrated about the low number of flights currently arriving at and departing from the Felipe Ángeles International Airport, an army-built airport north of Mexico City that opened in March. One barrier to greater usage is that Mexican airlines are currently prevented from adding new flights to the United States because Mexico hasn’t recovered its Category 1 aviation safety rating with U.S. aviation authorities that it lost in May 2021.

Asked on Tuesday about efforts to recover the top-tier rating, López Obrador said that a lot of progress has been made. He also said that a delegation of transport officials, including Infrastructure, Communications and Transport Minister Jorge Arganis Díaz Leal, would travel to Washington this weekend for a meeting with U.S. authorities vis a vis the reinstatement of the Category 1 rating.

Díaz’s department said in June that the process to regain the top-tier rating was ongoing but predicted it would conclude “in the coming months.”

Safety has been a particular concern at the Mexico City International Airport this year, with two dangerous incidents caused by air traffic control errors. Pilots of a Volaris plane narrowly averted a disaster May 7 after they were cleared to land on a runway occupied by another aircraft. A similar incident involving an Aeroméxico aircraft occurred four days later.

With reports from AP and Contra Réplica 

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