The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has opened an office for the first time in Mexico as it looks to strengthen the cooperation between both countries. Mexico was downgraded to Category 2 status in May 2021 after failing to meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards and has been unable to restore the previous grading.

A new office in Mexico

The US Ambassador in Mexico, Ken Salazar, said on Friday the country was proud to open an FAA office in Mexico. This office will “strengthen the cooperation with the authorities and private sector of the (Mexican) industry aviation. We will deepen the dialogue and joint work for our countries to collaborate in civil aviation topics.”

Mr. Salazar added that the aviation industry is crucial to deepen the bond between both countries. Mexico is the country with the most significant number of flights to and from the United States and the number one destination for international travel of US citizens. He added that one in every four Americans who traveled abroad landed in Mexico, representing around 13 million travelers in 2022.

The Mexican airline industry celebrated the news. Viva Aerobus, the ultra-low-cost carrier, released a statement, applauding the opening of the first office of the FAA in Mexico. Juan Carlos Zuazua, Chief Executive Officer of Viva Aerobus, said,

“We applaud the fact that the FAA now has an office in Mexico, convinced that this will contribute to the efforts and actions necessary to continue strengthening the safety, competitiveness, and efficiency of air operations in the region. It is, without a doubt, a very timely decision on the road to recovering Category 1 status and together bringing Mexico and the US even closer together.”

Nonetheless, the US Ambassador in Mexico made no reference to the ongoing Category 1 recertification by the Mexican civil aviation authorities. In May 2021, the FAA downgraded Mexico to Category 2. According to the US agency, the government of Mexico didn’t meet ICAO safety standards.

A Volaris Airbus A320 departing from Las Vegas-1

Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Shutterstock.

When will Mexico regain its Category 1 status?

Nearly two years have gone by since the FAA downgraded Mexico to Category 2. Mexico has joined other countries with this rating such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela.

The Mexican authorities have stated over and over again to be working on regaining the Category 1 status. After all, not doing so is deeply impacting the growth plans of local carriers such as Aeromexico, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus, but also the pet project of the current government, the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU).

Earlier this month, the FAA’s outage of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system led to a delay in the recertification process. The FAA authorities requested the Mexican authorities to postpone a high-level meeting between both entities to continue with the work to recover the Category 1 status. The meeting was taking place on January 12 but is now delayed to a yet-to-be-announced new date. Mexico expects to regain its Category 1 status this year, most likely in the second quarter, although the recent developments could push this date further away.

What do you think the opening of an FAA office in Mexico means for the Latin American country? Let us know in the comments below.


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