The International Air Transport Association (IATA) criticized the Mexican government’s plans to move cargo flights from Mexico City International Airport (MEX) to other airports in the country at short notice.
According to the association, a Presidential Decree from last week indicated that cargo-only flights would be banned at MEX within 90 business days, which would force carriers to scramble for alternative airports throughout Mexico. While IATA said it understood the difficult situation at the Mexican capital’s main airport, “expecting airlines to move their cargo operations in such a short time is not feasible, given the enormous technical, regulatory and infrastructure requirements associated with this move,” read the industry body’s paper, issued on January 23, 2023. “The aviation value chain has many interdependencies that need to be considered when designing a transition plan, so cooperation between industry stakeholders and government is essential,” IATA continued.
Peter Cerda, the Regional Vice President of Americas at IATA, noted that the process to move operations out of MEX and to other airports “is complex and must be well planned to avoid any operational interruption”. As such, “we need all the interested parties to work in coordination, thus guaranteeing the safe and efficient flow of cargo inside and outside the country,” Cerda added.
Felipe Ángeles International Airport as an alternative
Meanwhile, the local government offered dedicated cargo airlines to use the recently opened Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU). However, IATA pointed out that the airport is not fully prepared to welcome carriers’ freighters, as terminal operators lack the necessary third-party certificates for cargo to be transported to Europe or that there is a lack of adequate equipment at cargo warehouses that are authorized by the local authority. Furthermore, NLU does not have an operational customs system and an insufficient number of customs agents.
“Air cargo plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of Mexico. Any prolonged interruption in the Mexican air cargo infrastructure will have a negative impact on the well-being of the citizens and companies of the country,” Cerda continued, adding that the industry will continue working with the authorities to maintain deliveries of critical goods and that cargo operators can operate safely and efficiently.
In May 2022, authorities decided to cap flights at MEX following a near-miss at the airport. Then, a Volaris Airbus A320 was forced to perform a go-around as another Airbus A320 was lining up to take off from the same runway where the jet was landing. Overcrowded for years, NLU was chosen as an alternative to alleviate traffic from the capital’s main airport.
A year prior, the United States (US) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating to Category 2. While Mexican airlines have been able to retain their current services, it has prohibited them from expanding their business in the US and barred US airlines from selling tickets on flights operated by Mexico-based carriers.