2021 In Review: How The Mexican Carriers Fared Last Year

Volaris, Viva Aerobus, and Aeromexico have published their 2021 full traffic results, and they show what an incredible recovery the Mexican airline industry had last year. Aeromexico closed the year back on track, rebounding entirely from the COVID-19 pandemic, while Volaris and Viva Aerobus grew compared to pre-crisis levels. Let’s investigate further.

2021 In Review: How The Mexican Carriers Fared Last Year
The Mexican low-cost carriers increased their traffic shares compared to 2019. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

Volaris incredible year

Volaris had one of the most remarkable recoveries from the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. The Mexican ultra-low-cost carrier is back on track and growing, despite the world still facing uncertainty, new variants, travel restrictions, and more.

In 2021, the airline carried 24.4 million passengers, growing 11.1% compared to 2019 levels. Volaris had the best year in its history in 2021, increasing its domestic market share up to 40%, taking advantage of Aeromexico’s Chapter 11 and Interjet ceasing operations in December 2020.

The Mexican low-cost carrier grew both in the domestic and international market in terms of carried passengers. Volaris had 19.8 million domestic travelers, a 12.4% increase compared to 2019; internationally, it had 4.5 million, a 5.7% growth.

In December alone, Volaris carried 31.4% more passengers than in 2019.

2021 In Review: How The Mexican Carriers Fared Last Year
Viva Aerobus had 27% more passengers in 2021 than 2019. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

What about Viva Aerobus?

Viva Aerobus, the second low-cost carrier in Mexico, also had a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline carried 15.2 million passengers in 2021, a 27% increase compared to 2019.

Viva Aerobus positioned itself as the third-largest airline in Mexico, behind Volaris and Aeromexico, but the second in the domestic market, surpassing Aeromexico.

The load factor for the low-cost carrier was 84% throughout the year. “Our low-cost business model allowed us to stimulate demand and serve over 15 million passengers last year, outgrowing our pre-pandemic demand levels, and we had a healthy load factor despite COVID-19 waves during 2021,” said Juan Carlos Zuazua, Viva Aerobus’ CEO.

2021 In Review: How The Mexican Carriers Fared Last Year
Despite the challenges, Aeromexico closed 2021 recovering its pre-pandemic traffic numbers. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

Aeromexico not behind

Grupo Aeromexico didn’t grow in 2021, compared to 2019 levels. The legacy airline had more challenges to face last year, including a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and travel restrictions worldwide.

Aeromexico carried 16.5 million passengers in 2021, a 20% decrease compared to 2019 when it handled 20.6 million.

Nonetheless, Aeromexico closed the year in a strong position. In December, Aeromexico had 1.7 million passengers, just 1.1% below 2019 levels. Moreover, the domestic market showed an 11.6% growth, while the international segment had a 22.5% decrease.

Compared to other legacy carriers in Latin America, Aeromexico had a strong 2021 and is hopeful of restoring profitability in 2022.

2022 should be a good year for Mexican carriers. Foto: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

What to expect in 2022?

Volaris and Viva Aerobus’ growth will not be sustainable in the long run. At some point, the market will hit the ceiling and come back to single-digit increases (or in the ten percent, not twenty or thirty percent). Nonetheless, it seems both low-cost carriers will continue to benefit from the current environment for a few more months or even quarters.

Both Volaris and Viva Aerobus should explore the connectivity to South America. Already Volaris is looking to launch operations to Lima, Peru, and Viva Aerobus has signed agreements with Viva in Colombia and Allegiant Air in the US. Financially, both airlines had back-to-back net profits, which should continue in 2021’s fourth quarter. 2022’s first quarter is tricky, as airlines historically face a slump in demand between January and February.

Meanwhile, Aeromexico should exit Chapter 11 in 2022, despite ongoing controversy with some unsecured creditors.

Aeromexico should also continue growing in the domestic market and recover pre-pandemic traffic numbers in the international segment. The airline could restart its plans to renew its Embraer E1 fleet this year while receiving new Boeing 737 MAX units. Finally, Aeromexico expects to recover profitability in 2022.

The big challenge in 2022 is Mexico restoring its Category 1 status with the FAA in the US. While Mexico remains in Category 2, Mexican carriers can’t add new services to this country, its most important international market.

What do you think about Volaris and Viva Aerobus’ incredible recovery? Why did it happen? Do you expect Aeromexico to grow over 2019 levels in 2022? Let us know in the comments below.