Viva Aerobus to Add Five New US destinations

Viva Aerobus to Add Five New US destinations

DALLAS — Viva Aerobus (VB) is set to expand its services to five new US destinations, namely Austin, Texas (AUS), Denver, Colorado (DEN), Miami, Florida (MIA), Oakland, California (OAK), and Orlando, Florida (MCO). These routes mark the first expansion of a Mexican airline into the U.S. market following the restoration of Category 1 status.

The first announced new nonstop service was confirmed by Denver International Airport (DEN) today. The carrier will fly to Mexico’s Monterrey International Airport (MTY) from DEN beginning January 25, 2024.

In response to the recent upgrade of Mexico’s aviation status to Category 1 by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Aeromexico (AM) and Volaris (Y4), the two largest airlines in Mexico, last week expressed their intentions to resume growth in the US market. However, their growth strategies are expected to differ.

Aeromexico primarily serves Mexico’s corporate travelers and higher-income individuals, particularly those in the Mexico City region. Consequently, its expansion plans are likely to focus on catering to this specific market segment while collaborating with its U.S. joint venture partner, Delta Air Lines (DL).

According to Cirium Diio schedules, AM holds the largest share of flights and seats at MEX, accounting for 58% of flights and 51% of seats in the third quarter. Y4 follows as a distant second with nearly 15% of flights, and VB ranks third with a 14% share.

NLU. PHoto: De Tlamichin – Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mexican Airport Shuffle

The Lopez Obrador administration has been actively pressuring airlines to increase the number of flights at Felipe Angeles International Airport (NLU), a project that is close to the heart of the administration, while simultaneously reducing the number of flights permitted at Mexico City International Airport (MEX).

As a result, the number of aircraft movements, which includes takeoffs and landings, will decrease from 52 to 43 per hour starting in January. This represents a significant drop of more than 30% from the 61 movements per hour that were allowed as recently as 2022. The objective of this move is clear: to compel Mexican airlines, the only ones affected by the reduction, to relocate their flights to NLU.

Peter Cerdá, the IATA Regional Vice President for the Americas, voiced his dissatisfaction with this decision by the Mexican government, stating that it disregards the interests of consumers and fails to respect the necessary consultation process with operators and users. IATA strongly opposed and questioned the Lopez Obrador administration’s unilateral decision and called for increased investment in the aging facilities of MEX.

Furthermore, the Mexican government has drawn criticism from some of its major trading partners. In response to the mandate from the Lopez Obrador administration, which requires all cargo airlines to move their flights from MEX to NLU, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) suspended its review of Allegiant Air (G4) and VB’s proposed joint venture.

According to Carol Petsank, the DOT’s Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, the move was a violation of the US-Mexico bilateral air transport agreement.

To the credit of IATA and other dissenting parties, the Lopez Obrador administration eventually revised its decision to apply the flight cuts at MEX only to Mexican airlines rather than all airlines. According to Airline Weekly, the implementation date was also pushed back by three months to January.

Cargo carriers are still required to operate at NLU. Viva Aerobus is scheduled to begin flights to the new Tulum airport, another pet project of the Lopez Obrador administration, on December 1.

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

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