Why Mexico Is The US’ Leading Flight Market

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Over the last few months, Mexico has become the leading international destination for US travelers. It has surpassed Canada and the UK by a long shot. The same applies to Mexico, as more than 90% of international travelers flying out of Mexico go into the US. But why is this happening? Is this trend going to continue? Let’s investigate further.

Aeroméxico Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N183AM
The Mexico-US air market has recovered faster than any other market worldwide. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Mexico never restricted US travelers’ access

The Mexican government took a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. It never forbade the entrance of foreign travelers. Unlike every other Government, it remained open. This decision has proven very productive in the last few months. Now, US vacation travelers that are looking for an international destination are eyeing Mexico.

According to Airlines For America, most international travelers flying out of the US go to Mexico. They’ve dwarfed every other market worldwide, surpassing Canada by 9 to one, the UK by 14 to one and Japan by 30 to one. The airlines in both countries are looking at those stats and capitalizing on them. This month, United Airlines increased its frequencies to many beach destinations across the continent. United included more frequencies in 22 routes to Mexican cities and resumed operations on two routes.

In a recent webinar about Mexican tourism, experts said that Mexico has a one-of-a-kind opportunity to attract US travelers. The combination of leisure destinations, zero travel restrictions, and proximity to almost every US city is undeniable.

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Eastern Airlines Boeing 767-336(ER) N706KW
Many US airlines, like Eastern, are launching new flights and routes to Mexico. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Latin America is still largely disconnected from the US

In August 2019, 8.26 million passengers traveled from Latin America to North America, mainly the United States. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, that number shrunk to 597,266 passengers in August 2020. More than 75% of these travelers departed from Mexico.

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The overwhelming influx of passengers coming from Mexico can be explained by the fact that many South American countries still hadn’t opened up their borders in August. Since then, countries like Colombia and Peru have resumed international operations. Despite that, at the moment, the Mexico-US market is extremely important. Let’s take one example: San Jose del Cabo, a leisure city destination located on the Baja California peninsula.

According to Olivier Ponti, ForwardKeys Insights’ vice-president, the booking for arrivals to San José are down 61%, year-on-year in December 2020, “which is quite an achievement given the current situation,” he said in a webinar from CAPA. Moreover, private aviation to San José didn’t decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic but actually increased by 70%.

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For Mexico, this trend has to continue. It will be very hard to sustain a 75% market share, in the long run, but the pandemic has shown a unique opportunity for Mexican airlines and airports.

LATAM Brasil Boeing 777-32W(ER) PT-MUA
Most of the passenger traffic between Latin America and the US comes from Mexico, due to the government restrictions across South American countries. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Mexico’s depend on the US market

Despite these numbers, something is evident: US airlines can survive without passenger traffic to Mexico. But Mexican airlines can’t. According to stats by the Mexican Ministry of Transportation, more than 90% of all international travelers flying out or into Mexico came from the US in August. Before the pandemic, the US had a 60% share of the international market share in Mexico. That’s quite an increase.

Additionally, three US cities have had the most interesting development for international travelers going into Mexico: Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston.

Los Angeles-Guadalajara is, for now, the leading city pair between both countries. Last year, it was third, behind Mexico-New York and Mexico-Los Angeles. But the recovery of this city pair is stalling since July, so maybe it won’t last in the first position.

On the other hand, the city pairs from Dallas and Houston to Cancun have recovered exceptionally well. They are almost back at its January levels.

There’s one final thing: Mexico City is serving as a hub. With many direct routes between North America and South America suspended due to the pandemic, Mexico City International Airport is becoming a transit hub.

Are you planning to travel to Mexico any time soon? Let us know in the comments.

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