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By KELIN DILLON

After a period of consecutive hiccups in Mexico’s air travel sector, including near-collisions, construction accidents during the building of the new Santa Lucia airport, and a suspension of Mexico City’s new airspace redesign, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concluded its audit of the Mexican Federal Civil Aviation Agency’s (AFAC) aviation security, which will decide whether the nation remains in Category One or degraded to a Category Two, which would have disastrous effects on Mexico’s air travel sector.

Currently, only eight countries have been given a Category Two designation by the FAA: Bahamas, Curaçao, Ghana, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, Venezuela and the Eastern Caribbean states.

Director of the AFAC Carlos Rodríguez Munguía warned that Mexico being degraded to a level two would prevent Mexico from opening new air routes and prevent Mexican airlines from flying to the United States, hindering even further Mexico’s already-suffering tourism industry.

“With the (covid-19) health emergency already reducing the number of passengers allowed, if we add this (rating degradation), it would be chaos.” said Rodríguez Munguía in an interview with El Financiero. “This uncertainty has caused concern in the leaders of the airlines and the industry in general.”

With six of every 10 international travelers entering Mexico coming from the United States, a demotion from the FAA would be devastating to the country’s tourism economy.

Rodríguez Munguía noted the FAA found issues and discrepancies in the AFAC with lack of training, inspection and verification of its personnel.

Still, the AFAC director said he was sure Mexico would still receive a  Category One ranking, saying, “I have confidence in the work that the AFAC team has done and I am confident that we will go well.”

“The working environment we had with them was one of harmony,” Rodríguez Munguía said. “There were no tensions or questions that raised doubts that the actions we have taken are adequate.”

Already, the U.S. aviation authorities recommended that Mexico increase the salaries of its employees by 50 to 70 percent, considering they are currently paid under half of what industry professionals make in other countries.

The decision from the FAA on Mexico’s ranking will come within 30 days of the conclusion of its audit, which finished on Monday, April 26.

Despite Rodríguez Munguía’s confidence in the future result, Mexico’s National Union of Air Traffic Controllers’ (Sinacta) recent denunciation of the government aeronautics agency Air Navigation Services in Mexican Air Space (Seneam) for “abuse of power,” and the Seneam’s own lengthy delay in recognizing the aforementioned near-collisions, as well as dismissing them as “not serious,” could be contributing factors in the FAA’s ultimate decision on Mexico’s categorical designation.

…April 28, 2021

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