WORLD ROUTES: Aeromar Targets Texan Niche Markets in International Strategy

Privately-owned Mexican regional carrier Aeromar has this year once again expanded its network into the international market with the introduction of flights between Mexico City and the US city of McAllen, located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley in the American South.  Next week it will add a second international route to the fellow Texan city of Austin with a regular link to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Aeromar, initially established in Toluca in November 1987, moved its operations to Mexico City in April 1988 where its headquarters, maintenance base and operations are now located.  It currently operates around 100 flights a day using a mixed fleet of 14 ATR 42s and two Bombardier CRJ200LRs on a range of domestic routes but has previously offered international links to Laredo and San Antonio, as well as a Houston service for Aeromexico.

The launch of flights to McAllen on March 18, 2013 was not without their risks.  The route had been stopped and started on a number of previous occasions, but the independent carrier was confident it could make the link work, where others have previously failed.  Its management now confirms the route has “surpassed expectations” and frequencies have grown from three times weekly to an up to daily operation.

“We thought that with the changing demographics and developments in Mexico… it made sense to go back and look at that market and even though the numbers were very weak we knew that people were travelling by whatever means to that region,” said Fabricio Cojuc Wolfowitz, Executive Vice President, Chief Planning & Commercial Officer, Aeromar.  In 2012 an estimated 2,800 O&D passengers travelled on the route.  The largest traffic flows were via Houston on the services of United Airlines, although there are also flows via Dallas with American Airlines.

The route was historically served by Texas International Airlines on an up to twice daily basis using a Douglas DC-9 in the early 1980s up until its collapse in November 1982.  It was then taken over by Continental Airlines (now part of United Airlines) with a daily schedule but the route was closed in September 1999.  The flight was resumed in May 2004 through its ExpressJet regional partner using a 50-seat Embraer ERJ 145 but was again dropped in September 2007.  In its final 12 months of flight operations an estimated 21,000 O&D passengers travelled on the route, highlighting the inherent demand.

McAllen has a growing population reaching 130,000 according to estimates last year.  In an official 2010 census the figure was 129,877, up 22.0 per cent from the previous decade.  It is a popular regional retail destination for Northeastern Mexican states and while its total population is 20th among Texas cities, it ranked 12th in overall retail sales and third in the State in total retail sales per household and per capita.  McAllen is represented by 40 of America's top 100 retailers and the retail sales sector has become the driving force in McAllen's economy, growing a staggering 138 per cent over the last 10 years, to over $ 3.58 billion.  The Chamber of Commerce estimates that at least 35 per cent of all retail sales in McAllen are purchased by visitors from Mexico.

And after the success of its flights to McAllen, Aeromar will now introduce a direct link between Mexico City and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.  The three times weekly service will launch on October 21, 2013 and will be operated using a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 with frequencies increasing to five times weekly in early November 2013 and to daily over the Christmas and New Year period.  Again Aeromar will be the sole operator on a route that has been previously flown by other Mexican operators in the past decade.

Mexicana had served the route on a twice weekly basis between April 2003 and February 2004 using an Douglas DC-9, increasing capacity during the peak months of July, August and September with a third weekly frequency.  Aeromexico subsequently entered this city pair market in December 2006, initially using Boeing 737s and McDonnell Douglas MD-87s before growing frequency to a daily operation using smaller Embraer ERJ-145s.  However, it suspended the route in June 2008 and there has been no direct service since.

According to MIDT data an estimated 10,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled on the route in 2012 with the largest traffic flows with largest traffic flows via Houston on the services of United Airlines, and Dallas with American Airlines.  When the route was last operated on a regular basis in 2007, the statistics show that around 26,000 passengers travelled between the two cities.

Away from Mexico City, the Aeromar will also introduce a new direct link to McAllen from the Central Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.  This route, the first between the two cities this century, will be launched on November 14, 2013 and will initially operate on a three times weekly schedule, increasing to five times weekly at the end of the year.

You can find out more about the airline’s plans in our exclusive video interview with Fabricio Cojuc Wolfowitz, Executive Vice President, Chief Planning & Commercial Officer, Aeromar from this year’s World Routes in Las Vegas.

Fabricio Cojuc Wolfowitz, Executive Vice President, Chief Planning & Commercial Officer, Aeromar, details international network strategy of the independent Mexican regional carrier.