MIAMI — Mexican flag carrier Aeromexico will open its third Asian destination later this spring with 4 weekly services to Seoul Incheon Airport in South Korea. The flight will commence on May 27 and route via Monterrey on the outbound leg from Mexico City airport as a technical stop, and return nonstop from Seoul to Mexico City on the inbound leg.

The flight will depart Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International airport at 22:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and arrive into Seoul at 6:00 AM two days later, following a 1 hour and 40 minute re-fueling stop in Monterrey.

The return sector will depart Seoul at 12:25 PM and arrive into Mexico City at 12:30 PM the same day. All sectors will be operated on a Boeing 787-8.

AM090 MEX2158 – 2338MTY0118+1 – 0600+2ICN 788 x247
AM091 ICN1225 – 1232MEX 788 x246

Aeromexico presently serves Tokyo Narita with daily nonstop flights from Mexico City in both directions. It also serves Shanghai from Mexico City thrice weekly, except via Tijuana on the outbound and inbound legs. The Mexico – Asia market will grow sizably this year with Mexico City also receiving new nonstop service from All Nippon Airways to Tokyo Narita, commencing in February 2017.

Aeromexico Chart

The inbound route from Seoul to Mexico City will become the carriers’ longest route by distance flown, totaling 7,528 miles in the East-bound direction. Favorable wind conditions, as well as the superior operating capabilities enabled by the 787 Dreamliner, will permit Aeromexico to operate this route nonstop.

Aeromexico has 12 787 airframes in its fleet, of which 3 are the 787-8 model and 3 are the 787-9 variant. It has an additional 4 of the -9 series on order and another 4 on option. It also has 4 of the 777-200ERs in operation.

The 787s have been a major value-add to Aeromexico’s global network. Since the 787 joined the fleet in 2013, the carrier has been able to add new links to Europe, Asia and South America with the additions of London Heathrow and Amsterdam while also removing technical fuel stops on its Tokyo Narita route, which previously operated via Tijuana and Monterrey.

The challenge for Aeromexico has always been 2-fold in growing its Mexico City Juarez hub. Logistically, the airport is land-locked on all sides, and its two runways are limited to 61 movements per hour between 7 AM and 22:59 PM. This has created a rather complex and convoluted slot-distribution process among the multitude of global carriers wishing to serve MEX, which is the countries’ largest and most important port of entry. Not only is Mexico City an important scheduled passenger market, but also a large cargo market as well. This puts further stress on the system.

While Aeromexico is the primary network and flag carrier of Mexico, rival low-cost carriers Interjet, Volaris and VivaAerobus also vie for constrained slot and gate resources at MEX. The opening of the new Terminal 2 in 2007 has abated some of the congestion issues, but the airport is still operating at full capacity. A new airport will open in 2020 with 3 runways to alleviate these issues.

The second challenge is operational given Mexico City’s hot and high altitude. This is a more unresolvable situation that can only be addressed by having technical stops on longer-haul, westbound flights to Asia to avoid taking payload restrictions. The 787 has helped with this, but ultra-long haul routes like Seoul and Shanghai will still require re-fueling prior to entering the Pacific.

For these reasons, most of the long-haul flights from Mexico City on Aeromexico depart and arrive during off-peak hours to Asia, Latin America and Europe. Flights from Shanghai, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Santiago, Sao Paulo and London Heathrow all arrive prior to 7:00 AM. Flights in the reverse direction generally leave after 23:00.

Subsequently, this creates challenges in utilizing Mexico City as an efficient transit point between Europe and Latin America or Asia and Latin America. Presumably, this may become less of an issue once the New Mexico City airport opens, but for now, Mexico City relies mostly on local traffic or short-haul feeder traffic from domestic Mexican, trans-border, and Caribbean, Central and Northern South America points.

The Seoul flight will, however, be optimally timed to facilitate connections on the South Korean end. Seoul Incheon airport is a massive SkyTeam hub and a base for Korean Air, one of the original founders of SkyTeam, along with Aeromexico, in the early 2000s.

A 6:00 AM arrival time in Seoul enables quick connections to Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Bangkok, Xi’an, Guam, Sapporo and Beijing. Inbound arrivals from other Asian points to connect with Aeromexico’s noon departure time will support Hanoi, Kathmandu, Da Nang, Cebu, Singapore, Bangkok, Guam, Saigon, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar and Phuket.

The two carriers have a limited codeshare agreement in place with Korean Air carrying Aeromexico’s code on a select few flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Seoul. Aeromexico carries Korean Air’s code from Los Angeles to Guadalajara and Mexico City, and on Aeromexico’s nonstop route to Tokyo Narita from Mexico City.

With fellow SkyTeam founder Delta finalizing its joint-venture Anti-trust agreement with Aeromexico, as well as the thawing relations between Delta and Korean Air, there will likely be an expanded partnership between all three carriers on North America – South Korea operations on the horizon.

Aeromexico is in a favorable position for growth.  The 787s have provided a nice buffer to some of the more challenging operational constraints that it has faced in the past, and also allowed the carrier to improve its profitability on certain routes, like Tokyo and London. The -9 series also enables the carrier to add capacity on stronger routes like Paris and Madrid.

As the economic situation rebounds in Brazil, Aeromexico may re-consider a second attempt at Rio de Janeiro (which was suspended in June 2015). It is unclear whether additional European expansion is on the horizon given that Aeromexico competes with more European carriers than Asian carriers (six to Europe on Iberia, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia) versus 1 to Asia (ANA). It has mulled possibilities such as Rome, Barcelona and Milan (Barcelona was dropped in 2012).

Finally, assuming the opening date of the new Mexico City airport remains on schedule for 2020, Aeromexico will be primed to play a larger role in Latin American aviation than it has in the past.