Thursday, December 7, 2023

US set to downgrade Mexico’s air safety rating after reviewing aviation oversight

The United States government will soon announce a downgrade to Mexico’s aviation safety rating, according to a report by Reuters.

Four airline industry sources with knowledge of the matter told the news agency that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to announce the downgrade imminently following a lengthy review of aviation oversight in Mexico.

A demotion from category 1 to category 2 would prevent Mexican airlines from launching new services to the United States, according to the sources. Existing services would not be affected. A downgrade would also restrict airline-to-airline marketing practices such as selling seats on each other’s services via code-sharing arrangements between Mexican and U.S. carriers.

Carlos Ozores, an aviation consultant at the global advisory and digital services provider ICF, said the downgrade could also upset the United States expansion plans of Volaris, a growth-driven Mexican budget carrier.

Sources who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity said the FAA has spoken at length with aviation regulators in Mexico, which had not addressed all of its concerns following an in-country assessment. Mexican officials have been informed about the downgrade and raised concerns about the action, the sources said.

One source said that the FAA’s concerns were about Mexico’s oversight of airlines rather than safety issues.

But Reuters said the downgrade would mean that the FAA has determined that safety standards in Mexico don’t comply with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. According to the FAA, a downgrade means that an aviation authority has shortcomings in areas such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping and inspection procedures.

President López Obrador said Monday that Mexico is complying with all the requirements, and hinted that U.S. airlines were behind the move. “… they are the ones who will benefit.”

He urged the U.S. not to go ahead with it. “We feel that this decision should not be made.”

The president also said Mexican airlines would not be affected “because they are mostly dedicated to transporting passengers domestically.”

The expected downgrade would come at a time when air travel between the United States and Mexico is recovering strongly from the pandemic-induced tourism downturn. Mexico was easily the most popular international destination for United States travelers in April, with almost 2.3 million passengers on U.S.-Mexico flights. The figure is more than triple the number of people on flights from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic, which was the second most popular international destination, according to industry data.

As a result of the downgrade, Delta Air Lines, which has a codeshare agreement with Aeroméxico and owns 49% of the airline, will have to issue new tickets to some passengers booked on Mexico’s flag carrier, sources told Reuters. Both airlines declined to comment.

It is unclear how many passengers might need new tickets, but there is potential for the number to be large. Delta and Aeroméxico, which have been codeshare partners since 2017, are offering a combined total of approximately 3,900 flights between the United States and Mexico and vice versa in June, according to the aviation analytics company Cirium.

The FAA previously downgraded Mexico’s air safety rating to category 2 in 2010 due to suspected deficiencies in its civil aviation authority. But its category 1 rating was reinstated just four months later.

The Mexican government said in 2010 that aviation safety had not deteriorated and attributed the rating downgrade to a shortage of flight inspectors.

Source: Reuters (en) 

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