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Mexico’s ongoing aeronautics drama – which includes its still-in-effect airspace ranking downgrade by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), repeated chaos at the capital’s airports following said airspace’s redesign and unexpected leaks of the Mexican government’s plans to launch a military-run airline, just to name a few – took a new turn on the morning of Monday, Dec. 5, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) issued a threat to national and foreign airlines, warning that many of their operations in Mexico may come to a close once the nation’s controversial new military airline launches to the public.

López Obrador’s relationship with Mexico’s aeronautics has long been fraught with contention ever since he canceled the multi-billion-dollar megaproject Mexico City New International Airport (NAIM) soon after assuming the presidency in 2018, a facility he went on to replace with the less-than-well-received Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA). 

According to López Obrador’s Monday conference, Mexico may enact cabotage regulations to prevent foreign airlines from operating within Mexico outside of major destinations like Cancun and Mexico City, a service that the executive claims will be supplemented by the new military airline’s operations.

“With the new military line, with the management of the airports already following a comprehensive plan, surely there will be more trips. The price of the ticket will drop,” said AMLO at the time.

AMLO revealed that Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) will assume control over the Campeche International Airport, while the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) will take charge of the Ciudad del Carmen Airport, joining the Armed Forces’ other half-dozen designated airport jurisdictions across the southeast of the country – including the under-construction Palenque and Chetumal facilities.

The federal executive went on to announce that the military-run airline is expected to begin service at the end of 2023, coinciding with the launch of another controversial megaproject, the Tren Maya.

Aeronautical experts have also criticized AMLO’s creation of a new airline, claiming that Mexico requires a national aviation policy more urgently than it needs another airline.

“It is required that in Mexico that we have a national aeronautical policy,” said general secretary of the Aviation Pilots Union Association (ASPA) José Alberto Gual Ángeles. “For 20 years, more than 22 airlines have closed in the country. Why have they closed? Because we have not had an aeronautical policy that gives certainty to its users and the public.” 

“We have the second-largest executive aviation in Latin America and the third in the world. We do not deserve to be in category 2,” commented Gual Ángeles on Mexico’s lowered FAA ranking. “Category 2 has been a tragedy because all Mexican airlines have invested in state-of-the-art aircraft, of which there are currently more than 50 that are not allowed to fly to the United States, which is the main market.”

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