Passenger congestion at the Mexico City International Airport (AICM). Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

Passengers continue to encounter problems at the Mexico City International Airport (AICM), chief among them late arrivals, long wait times for checked luggage, delays at customs, lack of water and, now, the banning of ride-hailing applications.

In addition to these problems, as of May 25, 2021, the AICM was downgraded to category 2 from category 1 in the International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA) by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has led to Mexican airlines losing almost 5 billion pesos, according to industry sources.

The reason for the downgrade included deficiencies in personnel training, verification procedures, safety oversight, inspection procedures and staff salaries, problems that the country’s Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC) has yet to solve.

The AICM, which has been operating since the 1950s, has also registered an increase in go-arounds in recent weeks, which has delayed the arrival of flights. A go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on its final approach, and can either be initiated by the pilot or requested by air traffic control for various reasons, such as an unstabilized approach or an obstruction on the runway.

In May of this year, a plane headed to Guatemala nearly collided on takeoff with another aircraft bound for Mazatlan at the AICM runway, which led to the resignation of the then-general director of the Office of Navigation Services for Mexican Air Space (Seneam), Víctor Manuel Hernández Sandoval.

The banning of ride-hailing applications like DiDi and Uber has also made it hard for arriving passengers who don’t own cars to leave the AICM, as they are forced to rely on airport taxis, which are not always available, unreliable or charge higher prices. Several passengers have already complained about the airport-taxi service of the AICM on social media.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), in his morning press conference on Thursday, June 30, said that he did not know about the ban on ride-hailing applications at the AICM and promised to look into the issue.

He, however, blamed “interest groups, corruption and many problems” that he had “inherited from the previous” administration for the issues creating bottlenecks at the AICM.

On Friday, June 24, signs appeared at the AICM arrivals area that prohibited passengers from using their ride-hailing applications, and warned that violators would have to pay  a fine of 43,000 pesos.

As for the crisis that the AICM has been facing in general, López Obrador said that the laundry list of problems has been exaggerated by those who have rejected his plans to promote the controversial Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), one of his pet megaprojects.

“I think it is a combination of several factors,” López Obrador said. “But, of course, the biggest thing is that those who have rejected the Felipe Ángeles Airport are doing whatever it takes to discredit the airport and to exaggerate everything.”

The AIFA has also been riddled with problems and controversy since its opening, the most recent of which was the lack of registration of flights between Simón Bolívar International Airport in Venezuela operated by Línea Aérea Conviasa — the flagship carrier and largest airline of Venezuela — and the AIFA, even as the Mexican Secretariat of the Interior (SeGob) has reported that 4,438 undocumented Venezuelans have already entered Mexico since March of this year.

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