Mexico Expecting Return To FAA Category 1 Safety Rating In 2022

The Mexican government expects the country to return to a Category 1 Safety Rating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) within the first six months in 2022. Currently, the Mexican Civil Aviation Federal Agency (AFAC) has been working towards complying with international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Let’s investigate further.

Airbus A319-112 N710UW American Airlines MMMX Aug 21 2021 af 01
Mexico could have a Category 2 safety rating with the FAA for more than a year. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

How long will it take to recover Category 1 status?

On May 25, the FAA downgraded Mexico’s air safety rating. According to the US entity, Mexico’s AFAC does not meet ICAO’s safety standards.

A few days after the FAA announcement, the Mexican government issued a statement saying that it was a priority to recover the Category 1 safety rating. While in Category 2, the Mexican airlines can’t add capacity, frequencies, or routes to the US. Additionally, only a handful of countries worldwide are in Category 2 with the FAA, including the likes of Venezuela, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

It is the second time that Mexico is in Category 2. The first time happened in 2010, and it took the government four months to regain its prior status.

The Mexican government promised it would take the same amount of time on this occasion, but it seems it won’t be possible. During a press conference, Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said on Tuesday,

“Where are we now? We have an agreement, so both agencies (AFAC and FAA) are working together; there have been technical visits (from FAA inspectors), and there will be more. We believe that we will regain Category 1 status during next year’s first semester.”

Boeing B767-281BDSF N773AX MAS Air Cargo MMMX Aug 28 2021 AF 03
Mexican airlines can’t add new capacity or routes to the US while in Category 2. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

Not good news

Mexico could be up to a year in Category 2 if the process drags all the way to May 2022. If that happens, it wouldn’t be good news for the Mexican airline industry.

As previously stated, Mexican airlines have severe restrictions while AFAC is unable to comply with ICAO standards. They can’t add new routes to the US, increase frequencies on current routes, operate codeshare agreements, or use new planes.

The Mexican carriers are basically frozen in their growth to the US. In the meantime, US carriers can continue adding up capacity and routes into Mexico. This disparity has already given US carriers an even larger market share on the connectivity between both countries. US airlines control more than 70% of the market.

Therefore, while Mexico remains in Category 2, this market (which has rebounded exceedingly well from the COVID-19 crisis) is up for grabs, but only for US operators.

Airbus A320-232 XA-VAX Viva Aerobus MMMX Jul 24 2021 AF 01
Nevertheless, Mexican airlines do comply with international safety standards. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

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Do Mexican airlines comply with safety standards?

It is important to clarify that the FAA’s degradation is on the Mexican authorities, not on the carriers. The local airlines like Aeromexico, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus comply with international safety standards (like IATA’s IOSA).

The FAA determined through its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) whether Mexico’s oversight of its air carriers that operate or seek to operate into the US or codeshare with a US airline comply with safety standards established ICAO.

Like the Mexican Pilots Association said in May in a statement,

“The downgrade is for the country and the civil aviation authority, not for the Mexican airlines. We are fully committed to help the authority with our expertise and knowledge and find a solution to the findings of this audit.”

When do you expect Mexico will regain its Category 1 safety rating? Let us know in the comments.

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