FAA to bar Mexican airlines from adding new US flights over safety concerns

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The U.S. government is preparing to downgrade Mexico’s aviation safety rating, a move that will bar Mexican carriers from adding new U.S. flights and limits airlines’ ability to carry out marketing agreements, four sources briefed on the matter said.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) planned move is expected to be announced in the coming days and follows a lengthy review of Mexico’s aviation oversight by the agency.

Downgrading Mexico from Category 1 to Category 2 will mean current U.S. service by Mexican carriers is unaffected, but they cannot launch new flights and airline-to-airline marketing practices, like selling seats on each other’s flights in code-share arrangements, are restricted.

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Mexico is by far the single largest U.S. international air destination during COVID-19 as travel restrictions have prevented Americans from visiting much of Europe. In April, there were nearly 2.3 million passengers on U.S-Mexico flights – more than three times the next highest country.

An FAA spokesman declined to comment. Mexico’s Communications and Transport Ministry did not immediately comment.

Sources briefed on the matter said the FAA has had lengthy talks with Mexican aviation regulators about its concerns and they had not all been addressed. The sources added that Mexican government officials have been informed about the planned action.

One airline industry source speaking on the condition of anonymity said the FAA’s concerns did not address “safety of flight” issues but rather Mexico’s oversight of air carriers.

In July 2010, the FAA downgraded Mexico to Category 2 and restored its top rating about four months later.

The 2010 FAA downgrade was for suspected shortcomings within its civil aviation authority. The U.S air regulator was not specific, but downgrades are usually associated with gaps in safety expertise or record keeping or inspection procedures.

Mexican authorities said in 2010 there was no deterioration of flight safety and that the downgrade was due to a shortage of flight inspectors.

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