AMLO Cancels Concession of Nuevo León Airport

The North International Airport in the Mexican state of Nuevo León. Photo: ADN


Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Wednesday, May 24, decided not to renew the concession of the North International Airport (ADN) in Nuevo León, sources told Mexican daily newspaper Reforma in a Thursday, May 25, report.

The ADN is a private airport in General Escobedo, in the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León, which operates as a secondary air terminal of the capital city of Monterrey. Commercial planes do not operate in the ADN, but business consortiums in Nuevo León have hangars there, as well as Mexican fixed-based operators (FBOs) ASERTEC, Avianet and Azor Aero Corporation.

The sources revealed to Reforma that there was a meeting between members of the ADN board of directors; Jorge Nuño, secretary of communications and transportation; and General Miguel Vallin, director of the Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC).

In the brief meeting, the federal authorities — led by Nuño — said that the concession, which expires on Aug. 12, will not be renewed.

“Today’s (yesterday’s) meeting was very short,” said one of the sources. “They only confirmed that they will not renew the ADN concession. The secretary (Nuño) said that it was an instruction from the president. They told us that yesterday (Tuesday), Nuño met with AMLO.”

Last week, rumors had already been circulating that the federal government of López Obrador had its sights on the ADN and was intentionally complicating the procedures to renew the concession with the group that has operated the private airport for 30 years.

Likewise, the reforms to the Airport Law and the Civil Aviation Law, fast-tracked by the Chamber of Deputies and the Mexican Senate — both of whose majority blocs are composed of AMLO’s ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena) — toughened the guidelines to renew the concession.

These changes, coupled with a visit requested by defense personnel to inspect the ADN, sparked rumors that the president wants to hand over the concession to the military, similar to what happened to private airports in Campeche.

In recent weeks, private pilots have warned of an increase in the presence of the military at the ADN.

Meanwhile, exactly two years since the United States Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating to category 2, Mexican airlines have had to contend with major losses in profits as the downgrade has prevented them from opening new routes to the United States.

On the contrary, the category 2 downgrade has been a boon to U.S. commercial airlines, as they jumped at the opportunity to service new routes to and from Mexico. As a result,  in the first quarter of the year, the U.S. aviation industry grew 12.7 percent, helped in large part by the new Mexican routes.

Rodrigo Pérez Alonso, an aviation specialist, lamented the two years of Mexico being downgraded to category 2, which he said brought down the profits of local commercial airlines.

“These two years are the result of bad planning and bad public policies in the aviation sector, mostly the fault of the government,” said Pérez Alonso. “It has not been good for the airlines or the passengers, to put it mildly. This has caused a historic economic loss.”

Fernando Gómez, an economic analyst specializing in the aviation sector, reminded the Mexican government that its immediate neighbor to the north has always been the main destination abroad for Mexicans, and that around 65 percent of the international flights in the country are bound for the United States.

In addition, he said that the downgrade has not only affected the airlines but also the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), which obviously cannot offer flights to the United States, and that this has “resulted in a lack of connectivity.”

Gómez added that another big factor that has prevented Mexico from returning to its previous category 1 rating is the lack of financial resources to carry out training courses for safety inspectors.

“Several dates have been given for the recovery of our category 1 rating. The authorities have not communicated this clearly, and if there were more transparency, that would provide certainty to all the players in the aviation sector,” he said.

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