Mexico City’s Long Haul Routes Problem

Mexico City is located at 7,342 feet over sea level. Given the altitude of the city, long haul routes are a big headache for airlines, as we’ve seen in the past with Emirates, and now with China Southern and Hainan Airlines. Let’s see why. 

Aeromexico B787 Dreamliner
Mexico’s altitude is a headache for long haul routes. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

Chinese carriers axed their routes to Mexico City

One Mile At A Time broke the news that China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines won’t fly to Mexico City anymore. Both airlines operated this route with stopovers. China Southern landed firstly in Vancouver, Canada while Hainan arrived first to the Mexican city of Tijuana. 

This effectively ends the connectivity between Mexico and China. Previously, Aeromexico canceled their three weekly flights to Shanghai, due to the Emirates arrival to Mexico City (we’ll talk about Emirates later on). 

The axing of these routes could be due to more than one reason. Chinese carriers are perhaps no longer interested in the Mexican market. Between January and November 2019, China Southern had low passenger traffic of just 14,271 passengers, while Hainan did a little better with 20,121 passengers. In comparison, Turkish Airways surpassed both the carriers in just four months.

The other reason might very well be the altitude of Mexico City. So, what’s the problem with high altitude cities? 

Mexico City International Airport
The airport in Mexico City is one of the highest in the world. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno

Dubai is so far away from Mexico: Emirates

When Emirates announced a new route to serve Mexico City, the company said that it would have to stop en route. As such, the Middle Eastern carrier operates the route with a fifth freedom flight via Barcelona

The reason for this stop is the high altitude of the Mexican capital. This factor limits planes takeoff performance as they need longer runways and higher takeoff speeds. It is also the reason that explains why Toluca International Airport, a hub located near Mexico City, is not optimal for international, or even domestic, flights.

As Robert Mark said last year in an interview with The Denver Post

“The faster the airplane is going, the more force of air there is on its wings and control surfaces which requires more force on the pilots’ part to pull the control.” 

Turkish Airlines is another carrier that recently entered the Mexican market. The airline operates between Istanbul and Mexico City directly. But on the return flight, it has to make a stop at Cancun International Airport. 

Emirates only operates its route between Dubai and Mexico with a stopover in Barcelona. Photo: Emirates

Lack of long haul connectivity  

Mexico lacks long haul routes. Currently, Aeromexico operates the longest direct flight for the country between Mexico City and Seoul. And even that route used to have a stopover in Monterrey. 

But long haul markets are waiting to boom. For instance, over 58,000 people came to Mexico from Australia between January and November 2019. This makes Australia the largest unserved market in the country. According to data from the Tourism Ministry in Mexico, 22,957 of those Australians came via Mexico City. 

But, as interesting as it would be to see a direct route between Sydney and Mexico City, that could be impossible. Last year, I contacted Qantas and Aeromexico to see if they would be interested in covering a route between the two countries. Both said no. There is no Project Sunrise for Mexico. 

What do you think? Let us know in the comments