Photo: Eduardo Cano/Unsplash

By KELIN DILLON

Almost a year and a half after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Mexico’s airspace safety ranking from a Category One to Category Two, Mexico’s enduring airspace troubles are only set to continue as the United States is expected to hold fast to not allowing any new Mexican aircraft into its borders until Mexico can earn a Category One ranking once more, leaving some 79 new state-of-the-art aircrafts purchased by Mexican airlines across the course of the pandemic without a legal path of entry into the United States.

According to reports from daily Mexican newspaper El Financiero, many Mexican airlines – including Aeroméxico, Volaris and VivaAerobus – used the pandemic as an opportunity to reorganize their fleet and expand them with brand new, high-end aircrafts with better fuel consumption and improved passenger loads.

Aeroméxico in particular was eager to expand its fleet and purportedly purchased 40 aircrafts, all with the range and capability to fly to the United States, from major plane manufacturer Boeing, during the pandemic,

However, a Category Two ranking by the FAA prohibits the rating’s recipient from flying any new aircrafts into U.S. territory, leaving these 79 planes without any means to fly passengers to and from the United States. The ranking likewise prohibits Mexican airlines from opening new flight paths into the United States, as well as from flying over U.S. airspace to reach destinations like Canada.

“Everyone thinks about routes, that we cannot open new ones because we are ranked in  Category Two, but when we lower the category, the planes that you already had the operation certificate for prior to the downgrade are the only ones that we can use for the United States,” said Aeroméxico Director Andrés Conesa. “So, these 40 planes that we have received, which are the newest, and the same for the other two Mexican airlines that have purchased new planes, cannot fly to the United States.” 

Mexican airlines have already reportedly lost 9.2 billion pesos and 3 million passengers throughout the first year and a half of the nation’s airspace category degradation said the Center for Research and Tourism Competitiveness (Cicotur), and Mexico itself is not expected to be eligible to be repromoted to Category One until 2023 at the earliest. 

This isn’t Mexico’s only present-day issue with its airspace logistics; Monday, Sept. 19’s 7.7 magnitude earthquake reportedly damaged certain infrastructural elements of the Mexico City International Airport (AICM), only adding to the facility’s already documented deterioration.

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