Viva Aerobus CEO Juan Carlos Zuazua is hopeful that Mexico will regain its Category 1 safety rating within the coming months, saying it is “in the best interests” of both the US and Mexico authorities to ensure a speedy restoration.
Mexico’s aviation safety rating was downgraded by the FAA in May 2021 to Category 2 status—a move that prevents Mexican carriers from adding new US routes and frequencies beyond what has been approved. It also bars US airlines from codesharing on flights operated by Mexican carriers.
At the time of the downgrade, the FAA said that during a reassessment of the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC) from October 2020 to February 2021, it identified “several areas of non-compliance” with minimum ICAO safety standards. Since then, Mexican authorities have been working with the FAA to recover the Category 1 rating.
“We can only fly our maximum number of frequencies we already had so Mexican airlines cannot grow,” Zuazua told Routes from the sidelines of Routes Americas 2022 in San Antonio last month.
“But Mexico-US is among the biggest international markets in the world—there’s a lot of trade, tourism and VFR traffic and so it is in the best interests of the US and Mexico to get it back to Category 1 and get things moving.”
Viva Aerobus currently serves nine US destinations, data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows, offering almost 44,000 two-way weekly seats from points in Mexico. Zuazua said there was a “huge opportunity” for the ULCC to expand further once it is able, boosted by the planned transborder alliance with Allegiant Air.
“We believe there are over 200 nonstop markets from the US to Mexican leisure destinations that we’ll be able to serve,” he said. “There are many small and mid-sized cities in the US where to get to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun or Los Cabos, you have to fly through a hub. There are no direct options and so there are many US travelers flying indirectly to Mexican leisure destinations.”
Zuazua added: “There is also a huge opportunity for us to connect more point-to-point networks from differing Mexican cities to leisure destinations in the US, like Florida and Las Vegas where Allegiant has a significant presence.”
In recent days, Volaris EVP airlines commercial and operations Holger Blankenstein also said he expects Mexico to regain its Category 1 rating during the second half of 2022, following which the ULCC plans to resume growth in the Mexican-US market, and benefit from a codeshare with Frontier Airlines.
For the week commencing Feb. 28, OAG data shows that the US and Mexico are currently linked nonstop by 236 airport pairs. In total, there are 908,000 two-way seats being offered between the two countries—up by 18.2% on this time in 2019.