The new Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU) was inaugurated on March 21 to serve Mexico City and reduce congestion levels at Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX). In the first three months of operation, the airport handled 1,194 flights from four airlines, Volaris, Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus and Conviasa of Venezuela, and 116,176 passengers.
No good results
Between March 21 and June 30, Felipe Ángeles International Airport handled 116,176 passengers. By comparison, Mexico City International Airport – one of the top 20 hubs in the world in 2021 – receives a similar number of travelers in a single day.
Additionally, NLU had the fewest passengers in June compared to April and May (32,350 versus 34,981 and 35,129, respectively). This is a worrying sign, especially since NLU opened a new route in June.
The average load factor last month was 57.9 percent, according to data released by Mexico’s civil aviation authorities.
What is happening?
Since July 2022, the new Mexico City airport has had approximately 90 weekly flights (between 12 and 14 operations per day). Four airlines currently fly to and from this airport, although at least one more will enter by September (Copa Airlines, with three weekly flights between NLU and Tocumen International Airport).
But why isn’t the airport taking off?
This is a tricky question that most likely has more than one explanation. Politics aside, NLU’s lack of appeal can be understood from three different angles.
The passenger’s point of view
Passengers do not overflow from the new airport. An average load factor of 57.9% is not a good sign considering that Mexico has largely returned to pre-pandemic traffic levels, leaving the COVID-19 industry in The rear view mirror.
NLU is not very well connected. There is no easy way to get to this airport north of Mexico City.
Additionally, almost all routes currently available at NLU are also available from MEX, which undermines the commercial appeal of Felipe Ángeles Airport. The only route exclusive to NLU is Conviasa’s service to Caracas, Venezuela.
Viva Aerobus recently delayed the launch of four new routes from NLU. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.
Lack of airline interest
So far, only five airlines have launched or announced routes from NLU and, as previously reported, Conviasa is the only one not served from MEX. No American airline has shown interest in serving this new airport. All of this points to a lack of confidence by carriers in the airport.
On Wednesday, Aeromexico announced capacity changes in NLU. The Mexican carrier has canceled two routes to Cancun (CUN) and Villahermosa (VSA). On these two routes, Aeromexico flew empty planes.
Viva Aerobus also recently delayed the launch of several routes from NLU, citing delays in new aircraft deliveries.
Category 2 fights
Felipe Ángeles International Airport is limited in its growth. Because Mexico remains downgraded to Category 2 status by the Federal Aviation Administration, no Mexican airline can open a new route to the United States from NLU.
Having direct connectivity to the United States would be great news for NLU, as it would help develop that connectivity that any hub airport needs to grow. Passengers from domestic destinations throughout Mexico might be more interested in flying to NLU if they knew they could easily connect elsewhere.
What do you think is causing the struggles at the new Felipe Ángeles International Airport? Let us know in the comments below.