Canada’s largest airline currently has no plans to use the new Mexico City airport, which is under construction at a México state Air Force base and scheduled to open in March 2022.
Air Canada’s sales director for Latin America and the Caribbean told a virtual press conference that the airline hasn’t yet considered using the new airport because it is still being built and there are unanswered questions about its viability.
“With regard to the Felipe Ángeles Airport, we’re not considering it at the moment; it’s not finished, viability studies and capacity studies for the Mexico City International Airport [AICM] still have to be done so it’s not in our plans,” Luis Noriega said.
He also said that he expects services between Mexico and Canada – which this week eased restrictions for fully vaccinated incoming travelers – to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year. Air Canada currently offers 15 flights per week to Mexico but that number will increase to 28 in November, Noriega said.
The executive’s remarks came after Deputy Transport Minister Carlos Morán Moguel said the government will limit flight operations at the AICM to 61 per hour if airlines don’t voluntarily decide to use the Felipe Ángeles Airport (AIFA), which is being built by the army.
That number of takeoffs and landings is supposed to be the hourly maximum at the AICM but has been regularly exceeded since 2013.
“If the airlines don’t come here [to Felipe Ángeles] we’ll have to limit [flights],” Morán told the newspaper El Financiero during a tour of the new airport’s terminal on Tuesday.
“We’ll have to tell them: this is the [maximum] number of flights, you know there can’t be more.”
The deputy minister said that enforcement of the hourly flight cap will be effective in getting airlines to shift operations to the new airport once pre-pandemic air traffic levels are reached.
Morán said the government’s intention is to ensure that airlines understand the advantages of operating out of the AIFA, located about 45 kilometers north of downtown Mexico City.
General Gustavo Vallejo, the new airport’s chief of construction, said there are several airlines interested in operating out of the AIFA. He told reporters that the fees the airport will charge airlines will be published in the coming days and suggested that they will help spur interest in using the new facility, which is currently 70% complete.
Budget carrier Viva Aerobus and mainly domestic airline Aeromar are expected to be among the airlines that will operate out of the AIFA when it begins operations early next year.
Morán said the new airport won’t be affected by the United States’ downgrading of Mexico’s aviation safety rating from Category 1 to Category 2 because information to which he is privy indicates that the top tier rating will be reinstated before the end of the year. However, there is no guarantee that will occur and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard is working to a different timetable, pledging that Mexico will regain the top rating in the first half of next year.
The AIFA is part of a three-pronged plan to reduce pressure on the AICM, which was used by 50.3 million passengers in 2019 before air traffic slumped in 2020 due to the pandemic. The federal government is also upgrading the existing Mexico City airport and that in Toluca, México state.
The AIFA will have an initial capacity of 20 million passengers annually but it could eventually handle up to 80 million. In addition to the airport, the army is also building a maintenance base, a hotel and a terminal for travelers on private jets at the Santa Lucía Air Force base site as well as rail and highway links to the facility.
Vallejo said the total cost of the project won’t exceed 79 billion pesos (about US $4 billion), although the Finance Ministry has estimated the price at about 85 billion pesos.