How A Small Cargo Carrier Became Mexico’s Main International Airline

Between April and May, a small cargo carrier called Aerounión became the most significant international airline in Mexico. The Mexican Government recently published its latest data on the number of monthly operations, both domestically and internationally, and the results are extraordinary. Let’s investigate further.

Aerounión is a small cargo airline in Mexico. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying

Where did Aerounión come from?

Aerounión is a Mexican cargo carrier founded in 1998. It started its operations in 2001 and has Mexico City International Airport as its main hub.

As of July 2020, Aerounión has a fleet of five Airbus A300 B4F-203 aircraft. These airplanes can transport up to 97,000 pounds or 44 tons of cargo. They have a range of 2,600 nautical miles or 4,800 kilometers. Aerounión says its fleet is “an ideal combination of versatility and economy in cargo transportation for clients and operators.” It mainly flies to Los Angeles, San Jose (California), Chicago, and Miami in the US.

Nevertheless, Aerounión has never been a big operator worldwide. For example, in January, the carrier operated 56 domestic cargo flights and 235 international cargo flights. The coronavirus pandemic struck in Mexico during the last week of March. In April, Aerounion operated 55 domestic flights and 209 international flights, while in May, the number was 54 and 241, respectively. Nothing changed for the operator.

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Aeromexico Cargo
Aeromexico has also launched cargo flights. Photo: Aeromexico.

So, how did it become the leading international airline in Mexico?

The commercial carriers in Mexico, like Aeromexico and Volaris, had to stop flying internationally. Demand fell, and borders closed. All of a sudden, the international traffic coming in and out of Mexico disappeared.

While Aeromexico launched charter cargo flights that recently surpassed 200 round trips between Mexico and China, Aerounión did nothing out of the ordinary. This was a case when the airline didn’t do anything new; it just saw how everyone around it stopped flying.

What about the traditional Mexican carriers, like Aeromexico?

The commercial passenger airlines have suffered a 90% decrease in their traffic numbers. For instance, in May, neither Interjet nor Viva Aerobus flew internationally, while Volaris operated 98 international flights and Aeromexico 112. In January, these four carriers had 10,677 combined scheduled international services.

In April, Aeromexico as a whole (that is Aeromexico and its branch Aeromexico Connect) operated fewer transborder flights than Aerounión, with 262. Separately (as the Mexican Government lists them), they had 206 and 56 international flights. Meanwhile, Interjet didn’t fly internationally, Viva Aerobus registered four scheduled international services and Volaris 245.

When the Mexican Government publishes its statistics for June and July, we can assume that Volaris will again surpass Aerounión. It has restarted several flights to key cities in the US.

Aerounión flies mainly to the United States. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

Who’s been the biggest international carrier in Mexico during COVID times?

Nevertheless, during April and May, three US carriers operated more flights than Aerounión between Mexico and the US, according to the Government data.

During those two months, American Airlines flew 1,889 scheduled international services, becoming the leading international commercial operator in Mexico. Mesa Airlines, which provides regional air services for American Airlines, flew 631 between both countries. Finally, Envoy Air operated 789 services.

We don’t expect that Aerounión will repeat ever again as the primary international operator in Mexico. What do you think of Aerounión’s feat? Let us know in the comments.