Mexico City International Airport
- IATA/ICAO code:
- Gerard Ferrando
- Number of passengers :
- 36,056,614 (2021)
- Tracks :
- 05R/23L – 3,900 m (12,795 ft) |05L/23R – 3,952 m (12,877 ft)
- Terminal 1 | Terminal 2
A month and a half after the opening of the new Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU) in Mexico City, the Mexican authorities have announced their intention to increase the number of services by reducing the number of flights per hour at the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City (MEX) and launching an incentive program to attract carriers. Is this the best idea? Let’s find out.
Force the airlines?
Over the weekend, Mexico’s Transportation Undersecretary Rogelio Jiménez Pons said the government planned to issue a decree reducing the number of hourly operations at Mexico City’s international airport.
The airport, which serves as the country’s first domestic hub and the second international entry point after Cancún, would reduce the number of flights per hour from 62 to between 48 and 50. This measure aims to attract more traffic to NLU, the current government of Mexico’s flagship airport project.
Currently, NLU has only six daily flights (and one international every Monday by Conviasa) by three airlines: Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus and Volaris.
The decree will be published in the coming months, said Jiménez Pons.
“Right now, we are doing calculations; we will start (by reducing) cargo and charter flights, as well as new carriers and additional flights (…). Then we will move with all the other airlines. We have to see how many flights can be redirected elsewhere, especially to NLU, because it is ready, but flights can also be redirected to Toluca.
The Mexican government is seeking to reduce the number of operations at MEX. Photo: Getty Images.
Why take this action?
Felipe Ángeles International Airport opened on March 21, 2022. It currently has seven domestic routes and one international. These are:
- Aeromexico: daily flights to Mérida, four flights per week to Puerto Vallarta and three flights per week to Villahermosa
- Conviasa: one flight per week to Caracas.
- Viva Aerobus: daily flights to Guadalajara and Monterrey.
- Volaris: daily flights to Tijuana and Cancún. We did a trip report of the flight to Tijuana a month ago.
However, operating results fell short of expectations. Between March 21 and March 31, NLU carried 7,076 outbound domestic passengers and received 6,640 passengers. On average, there is a capacity of 156 passengers per flight, which means that the average load factor was 66%, including a low average load factor of 19% between the flight from Aeromexico and Villahermosa. On the other hand, the Volaris flight to Cancun had an 80% load factor in March, which is certainly not bad.
In April, Aeromexico announced and launched a new route (Puerto Vallarta) but did not add additional capacity. Instead, it cut Villahermosa flight frequencies from seven to three and launched four weekly flights to Puerto Vallarta.
Volaris has expressed interest in flying to Los Angeles, but is limited by Mexico’s Category 2 status with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Therefore, the authorities are studying new options to increase the capacity of NLU.
There are only a few flights a day from the new Felipe Ángeles International Airport in Mexico City. Photo: Daniel Martinez Garbuno | Single flight.
Moving airlines to the NLU is not a whim of the current government. This is a plan to reduce heavy loads at the MEX, which has been saturated since 2014.
MEX is no longer able to cope with the level of passengers it receives. The airport was built to accommodate around 30 million passengers and in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, it received 52 million.
“MEX is saturated, and that’s not something that’s happened now. It’s over 20 years saturated. It’s not a location issue; the planes that MEX receives have also increased in size at the over the years. We started with 120-seat planes, and now we have, on average, planes with more than 200 seats,” Added Jiménez Pons.
Nevertheless, NLU still faces many challenges and has not received the commercial interest that the Mexican government would have liked. Therefore, the authorities are also planning to put in place incentives to attract new carriers, although there are no further details on this. Currently, airport tax, paid by travelers, is cheaper in NLU than in MEX, so this might be an interesting idea to continue exploring.
Forcing airlines to move to a new airport could backfire. Instead of solving the MEX saturation, the government could end up losing connectivity. If the airlines believe that a given flight does not operate at NLU but cannot operate from MEX, they will simply close the route.
Do you think it’s a good idea to force airlines to move to a new airport to ease congestion levels at each other? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Expansion, Cirium.