Has Mexico’s Aviation Recovery Stalled?

The Mexican airline industry’s recovery has stalled, according to data provided by airlines and the Mexican Government. In the last two months, the domestic carriers have lost passengers, while the industry faces a combination of a historical low-season and new travel requirements worldwide.

Volaris Getty
The Mexican airlines have lost their passenger levels in the last two months. Photo: Getty Images

What have we seen in February?

Traditionally, the first quarter of every year is the low-season for travel in Mexico. That’s even more acute in this pandemic environment.

The Mexican airlines were tracking a V-shaped recovery from the low-point they had in April last year. The low-cost carriers Viva Aerobus and Volaris had particularly stellar performances, gaining headlines.

Nevertheless, the latest data provided by Viva Aerobus shows a big stall. In February, the company transported 645,000 passengers. The low-cost operator hadn’t seen those numbers since August 2020. In comparison, Viva Aerobus carried 840,000 passengers in January and 1.1 million in December.

Moreover, in December 2020, Viva Aerobus only had a 3% traffic decrease compared to December 2019, signaling an incredible performance. But the last two months have shown a massive decline.

Meanwhile, Grupo Aeromexico carried 898,000 passengers in February. In the previous two months, it surpassed the million barrier by moving 1.092 million in January and 1.116 million in December.

Aeromexico’s decrease wasn’t as acute as Viva Aerobus’. According to the carrier stats, it is back to the levels it had in October.

Viva Aerobus
Viva Aerobus’ stall is the largest among the three leading Mexican airlines. Photo: Getty Images

What do we know about Volaris?

Volaris is the largest operator in Mexico. In 2020, it had over 14.7 million passengers and one of the best economic recoveries worldwide. So far, the airline hasn’t updated its traffic results, so we only have January’s to look at its performance.

Like its two competitors, Volaris also had a decline in January. It carried 1.58 million passengers. In December, it had 1.7 million, and in November 1.63 million. We should expect Volaris’ February numbers to be quite similar to Viva’s and Aeromexico’s.

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What about Interjet?

Interjet is the cautionary tale for airlines in Mexico. The company is still on the ground, and nothing has happened in the last few months. The workers are on strike and have taken possession of Interjet’s assets, including the Sukhoi Superjet 100 fleet.

Interjet hasn’t flown since December 11, 2020. Its website is down, and social media hasn’t been active since December 31. Everything seems to be at a standstill.

Interjet Getty
Interjet hasn’t operated a single flight since December 11, 2020. Photo: Getty Images.

Explaining the stall

There are two main reasons that can explain the recovery’s stall in Mexico. To start, the first quarter of every year is the low season for Mexican carriers. Volaris explained this last month,

“Historically, the first quarter of any year tends to be a challenging quarter for airlines, and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more so. For the first quarter of 2021, the Company expects weakness in demand and booking curves to compress.”

The second reason is the imposition of new travel restrictions worldwide, mainly in the US. On January 26, the new US Government started asking for negative COVID-19 test results for international travelers.

Volaris also shed light on this. The low-cost airline operates approximately 30% of its network from Mexico to the USA. After the new travel restrictions, Volaris foresaw a short-term reduction in demand for cross-border flights.

As a result, the three main Mexican airlines have reduced their capacities.

But not only the Mexican carriers have seen a monthly decline. The US airlines also have. In January, the 13 US operators that fly to Mexico transported 1.13 million passengers, a 14% decrease compared to the previous month.

Fortunately for the airline industry in Mexico, Easter is coming. We can expect a surge in travelers coming soon, although that might spark a new COVID-19 wave in a country that is still in the early stages of vaccination campaigns.

Do you think the Mexican aviation industry will rebound in March or continue stalling? Let us know in the comments.

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