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The 'fine print' of the expansion of operations at AIFA

After a couple of months in operations with six routes, which were expected to continue until the end of the summer, the Felipe Ángeles International Airport ( AIFA ) is preparing to host , with the intention of going from 12 to more than 100 daily operations.

In recent weeks, Aeroméxico, Viva Aerobus and Volaris announced the operation to new destinations and an increase in frequencies on existing routes from the airport as part of an agreement signed with the government, with a trend aimed at generating traffic on high-volume routes, mainly in the vacation segment.

Volaris will integrate the largest number of new routes. The destinations added by AIFA include Acapulco, Guadalajara, Huatulco, La Paz, Mérida, Mexicali, Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Escondido and Los Cabos. Similarly, Aeroméxico will add new connections to Acapulco, Cancún, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Oaxaca and Veracruz, while Viva Aerobus will fly to Acapulco, Cancún, Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta and Havana.

With the new routes, AIFA will offer a total of 27 destinations by the end of September. However, in this process there are still several challenges of an operational nature with a direct consequence for the passenger.

For Fernando Gómez Suárez, an air sector analyst, one of the main ones is a scenario in which, if a passenger misses a flight, they cannot board the next one because only daily frequencies are offered, in the best of cases, while that at the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) the high number of frequencies in the destinations with the highest demand allows another flight to be taken that same day.

“If you don’t have another flight, you would have to go back and come back the next day, which implies a cost and time of travel,” he says.

In addition to this, the three airlines that announced an increase in flights at the AIFA will compete in some destinations that are already competitive in the country, such as Cancun, which, from Mexico City, is the busiest route, with 4.5 million users in 2019– and on other routes such as Acapulco, Oaxaca and Puerto Vallarta.

For Gómez Suárez, this could point to greater competition between airlines, which, although they tend to lower prices, is only sustainable to the extent that subsidies prevail in the operation of companies in areas such as costs, in which Volaris, for example, has reported that they are 40% lower than in the AICM.

“The airlines will compete on the same routes, perhaps the most profitable, that have worked, but this generates predatory competition, because in reality that has not worked in the past either, as in the case of Toluca,” warns the specialist. “What matters is to generate regional aviation.”

What’s in store for international routes at AIFA?

All the new routes announced come from national airlines, which will practically focus on the Mexican market, with the exception of Viva Aerobus, which announced its operation to Havana, Cuba, in the following months.

This leaves aside the US market, mainly due to the limitations brought by the degradation of air safety to Category 2 carried out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, for its acronym in English), which prevents adding new flights and frequencies to that country. .

“Not a single plane bound for the United States can take off from the AIFA and not a single ship from there can land,” says Juan Carlos Machorro, an expert in aeronautical and airport law at the law firm Santamarina y Steta, in an analysis.

“The Toluca airport, in a state of operational abandonment, cannot add new routes or frequencies to the United States either. What to say about the deteriorated passenger experience. Delays, capsizing and a deteriorated service, in addition to the lack of new routes that the market is demanding and the impossibility of flying in new planes that, paradoxically, cannot be used on the most demanded routes to the United States.

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