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Mexico's Civil Aviation Industry Rejects Foreign Cabotage Flights

Date: November 29, 2022

Simple Flying (Daniel Martinez Garbuno)

The Mexican airline industry has requested the government not to go any further with the plans to authorize cabotage flights from international operators at the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU). In a statement, the National Chamber of Air Transportation (Canaero) urged the authorities to address other topics crucial to the country's development, such as the recovery of Category 1 status with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Cabotage flights are a big no-no

In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of information regarding the possibility of Mexico allowing cabotage flights from Mexico City’s newest airport, NLU. The objective of enabling foreign carriers to operate domestic flights would be to drive prices down.

There are two types of cabotage, consecutive and ‘stand-alone.’ These are also known as the eighth and ninth freedoms of the air, respectively.

Per the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), consecutive cabotage is the right to transport traffic between two points in the territory of a granting State on a service that originates or terminates in the home country of the foreign carrier. It would be like if Turkish Airlines, on its route Mexico City-Istanbul via Cancun, was allowed to carry passengers between Mexico City and Cancun.

‘Stand-alone’ cabotage is the right to perform a passenger service entirely within the territory o the granting state. It would be like if, let’s say, American Airlines operated flights between Mexico City and Cancun.

The Mexican airline industry wants to avoid cabotage being considered. Canaero said that opening the air freedoms to incentivize the operation of the Felipe Ángeles Airport is not an appropriate mechanism to improve the air connectivity of Mexico City, and it “endangers the position of the national airline industry.” Canaero represents airlines such as Aeromexico and Aeromar.

Last month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would be in favor of allowing foreign airlines to operate domestic services between Mexican cities. He said that allowing cabotage flights is democracy. “Let foreign airlines come in from Europe and the United States so that they can operate flights inside the country,” he added.

A week later, the Mexican army administrator of NLU said the hub would be open for cabotage flights. Nonetheless, before cabotage flights are allowed in the country, Mexico needs to pass a change to the law, which currently strictly forbids foreign operators to fly within the country.

The priority: recover Category 1 status

Canaero added that the Mexican industry is going through a difficult time and that the government should focus on something other than allowing international players to enter the market. Instead, the government should have as its main priority to recover the Category 1 status with the FAA. Mexico was downgraded to Category 2 status in May 2021, impacting the ability of local airlines to launch new flights to the United States.

“The recovery of Category 1 status should be the main priority of government and industry since this important achievement will be a catalyst for air connectivity with our main international market, where NLU could play a fundamental role,” said Canaero. It is expected Mexico could regain Category 1 status until 2023’s second quarter.

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