Mexican Aviation Reached 1999 Levels – When Will It Recover?

Mexico could recover its pre-pandemic domestic travel levels before 2021 ends, according to Cuitláhuac Gutiérrez, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Country Manager. Following a challenging year for the airline industry, Mexico seems to be picking up (after falling to levels unseen since 1999), though some challenges remain. Let’s investigate further.

Aeromexico Boeing 787 Dreamliner Landing In New York JFK
The Mexican airline industry lost 60% of its passenger levels last year. Photo: Getty Images

Mexico’s bounceback

Last year, the airline industry lost 60% of its passenger levels, meaning the country was back to 1999, in terms of traffic, said Andrés Conesa, Grupo Aeromexico’s CEO.

Nevertheless, Mexico never closed its borders, leading to a successful bounceback from the COVID-19 crisis. In April, Mexico had 9.65 million passengers, as reported by the local Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT). This number is only 28% below the pre-pandemic levels.

That’s why IATA and the airline industry are confident about a possible 100% domestic rebound before the year ends. Despite Interjet’s cessation of operations and Aeromexico’s Chapter 11, travel demand has been restored quickly.

Both Volaris and Viva Aerobus have been adding capacity quickly, both domestically and internationally.

According to data provided by Cirium, Viva Aerobus has 33.4% more flights in June 2021 than it had in June 2019. But we all know that’s not necessarily a recipe for success. But looking at Viva Aerobus’ latest traffic report, from April, the airline had 1.15 million passengers that month alone, a 21.50% increase compared to 2019.

Meanwhile, Volaris is also operating 14.7% more flights in June 2021 vs. 2019. Traffic-wise, the company had a 6.7% increase in April, compared to its pre-pandemic levels.

Volaris Getty
Volaris has settled as Mexico’s largest domestic airline. Photo: Getty Images

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Domestic rebound, but what about international traffic?

Cuitláhuac Gutiérrez said IATA expects Mexico to recover its domestic traffic levels before the year ends. Nevertheless, he is not as optimistic about the international market.

Gutiérrez expects Mexico to recover its international levels by the end of 2024 or even at the beginning of 2025. Many reasons explain this trend:

  1. The Mexico-US market was rebounding very fast. The nine American operators that fly to Mexico were only 4% below their pre-pandemic traffic levels in April, said the SCT.
  2. Nevertheless, last week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Mexico’s safety rating to Category 2. This decision will undoubtedly impact the Mexico-US market recovery. We still don’t know by how much, though.
  3. Canada is the second most important international market for Mexico. At the moment, it is completely closed due to heavy travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian Government.
  4. South America still is a mixed bag. Some countries have rebounded quite well from the pandemic, like Colombia. Others remain very closed, like Argentina and Chile.
  5. Travel to Europe is still 68% below its pre-pandemic numbers, said the SCT. This market could rebound as European countries allow access to vaccinated travelers worldwide.
Viva Aerobus
By percentage, Viva Aerobus has had the largest growth compared to 2019. Photo: Getty Images

What about Aeromexico’s rebound?

We’ve spoken a great deal about Volaris’ and Viva Aerobus’ rebound. Both airlines are already exceeding their pre-pandemic levels both domestically and internationally.

A little bit behind those two airlines is Grupo Aeromexico. The historical carrier transported 936,819 domestic passengers in April 2021. That’s an 11% drop compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Internationally, though, Aeromexico is more depressed. It is still 60% below its 2019 traffic levels, according to the SCT.

When do you expect Mexico’s airline industry will recover fully from the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us know in the comments.