DALLAS — The U.S. government announced on Friday that it does not intend to extend the antitrust immunity currently granted to Delta Air Lines (DL) and Aeromexico (AM) for their codeshare agreement. This decision comes after the Mexican government made significant changes at Mexico City International Airport (MEX), the country’s main hub.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador decided to ban cargo jets at MEX in February 2023 to relieve congestion at the airport. This policy change has had substantial effects on the cargo industry in terms of its operations and logistics. Under the orders of the president, Mexican officials would later relocate cargo flights from MEX to the newly built Felipe Angeles International Airport (NLU). Furthermore, the availability of slots for commercial flights at MEX was reduced, also to alleviate congestion at MEX.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), these actions negatively impact existing carriers and potential new entrants. We can recall that at the start of October 2023, the DL and AM unveiled plans to enhance their partnership by introducing 17 new routes from various airports in Mexico to nine destinations in the United States.
Pending Final Ruling and Impact on Delta and Aeromexico
The U.S. Department of Transportation stated that the decision is still pending a final ruling. It added that the companies involved have a tentative deadline of October 26 to wind down their joint venture.
Under the current immunity agreement, Delta and Aeromexico can sell seats on each other’s flights through a codeshare arrangement. Delta had announced plans to offer more than 90 daily flights between the two countries this year under the agreement.
Delta stated that it is currently reviewing the DOT’s decision, while Aeromexico has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Opposition to the Mexican Government’s Actions
U.S. authorities, airlines, and interest groups have expressed opposition to the actions taken by the Mexican government. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has acknowledged that these actions are intended to boost traffic at the new Felipe Angeles International Airport.
According to Reuters, the decision to relocate cargo flights also disrupted the plans of Allegiant Air (G4) and Viva Aerobus (VB) to launch a joint venture last year, the latter of which added five new US destinations to its network last September.
While Mexico has stated that renovations are necessary at the decades-old MEX, the DOT claims it was informed that no additional capacity would be added for the time being. As for NLU, the new state-run Mexicana de Aviación’s inaugural flight departed from the new airport and touched down at Tulum International Airport (TQ0) on December 26, 2023.
For now, the DOT has communicated with senior Mexican officials regarding these decisions, which it believes violate the existing bilateral air service agreement and international norms. The Mexican transportation ministry has not responded to requests for comment at this time.
Featured image: Delta Air Lines and Aeromexico aircraft seen from the roof of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways