MIAMI – The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that the Mexican government does not meet ICAO safety requirements. The FAA has therefore downgraded Mexico’s ranking to Category 2 from Category 1 after a reassessment of the country’s civil aviation authority.

Although the new rating permits Mexican airlines to maintain current service to the US, it forbids the addition of new services and routes. Similarly, US carriers will no longer be able to advertise and sell tickets with their names and designator codes on Mexican-operated aircraft/routes.

The latter would affect Delta Air Lines (DL), which has a relationship with Aeromexico (AM), but DL has downplayed the impact of the downgrade on its operations to the neighboring country.

Finally, the FAA will limit Mexican airline flights to the US until Mexico’s civil aviation adheres to the International Civil Aviation Organization’ (ICAO) safety standards and is able to earn back its Category 1 status.

Delta Air Lines N107DU Airbus A220-171. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

FAA Offering Help to Improve Mexican Aviation

The FAA says it is completely committed to assisting Mexico’s aviation authority in bringing its safety oversight structure up to speed with ICAO’s requirements. To that end, the FAA stands ready to lend its experience and services to Mexico’s Civil Aviation Federal Agency’s (AFAC) efforts to address concerns raised during the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) review.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Mexico (DGAC) was confirmed to be replaced by a new organization, AFAC, on Oct. 16, 2019. At the time, there were no imminent improvements for commercial aviation operators.

Volaris N531VL Airbus A320-271N. Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernanadez/Airways

Why the Downgrade Occurred

The FAA discovered many areas of non-compliance with minimum ICAO safety requirements during its reassessment of the AFAC from October 2020 to February 2021. A Category 2 classification indicates that the country’s legislation or regulations lack the requisite conditions to regulate the country’s air carriers in compliance with minimum international safety criteria.

The FAA states that Category 2 is also applied when the civil aviation authority lacks technical experience, professional staff, record keeping, inspection processes, or the resolution of safety issues. The US aviation authority did not go into detail as to how many of these were found in Mexico’s management of its aviation industry.

XA-VIK – Airbus A320-271N – Viva Aerobus. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

FAA, ICAO Safety Requirements

The FAA evaluates the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that have applied to travel to the US, are currently conducting operations in the US, or engage in code-sharing agreements with US partner airlines under the IASA program.

The FAA was clear to state that it was not its rules but ICAO safety requirements that ultimately decide when international civil aviation authorities follow minimum ICAO safety standards.

Featured image: Aeromexico Boeing 787. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways