The Mexican army, administrator of the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU), wants this hub to be open for international airlines that wish to operate domestic services within Mexico. This practice is called cabotage, and it is rarely allowed throughout the world.

Allowing cabotage in Mexico?

Cabotage is the right or privilege of allowing foreign airlines to operate scheduled air services between two points in the territory of the granting State. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), there are two types of cabotage in the airline industry, consecutive cabotage and stand-alone cabotage, also known as the eighth and ninth freedoms of the air, respectively.

Historically, Mexico has never allowed cabotage of any sort, as most countries do, in a way to protect the interests and autonomy of local carriers. Nonetheless, the Mexican army could be looking to change that by allowing this practice at the recently opened Felipe Ángeles Airport, north of Mexico City.

A view of Mexico City's new airport.

Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno | Simple Flying.

In an interview with Forbes, the general director of NLU, General Isidoro Pastor Román, said that the Mexican airline industry could be able to compete without any type of restriction. Nonetheless, he added that if cabotage were to be approved, it would only be allowed to take place at the Felipe Ángeles Airport. NLU currently has over 200 flights per week and only had 300,000 passengers between March and September 2022.

The idea of allowing cabotage in Mexico was first introduced by the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a few weeks ago. During its daily press conference, Mr López Obrador said,

“That’s democracy. Let foreign airlines come in from Europe and the United States so that they can operate flights inside the country.”

A view of Mexico City's new airport.

Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno | Simple Flying.

Only NLU would have cabotage

Isidoro Pastor said allowing cabotage from the Felipe Angeles International Airport would not harm the Mexican airline industry. He stated that, if approved, the cabotage would only be permitted from NLU, meaning that the remaining 77 Mexican commercial airports would remain closed to international operators.

“The cabotage (flights) could depart from NLU to any destination in the republic. All of this is linked to the functionality, the interest, and especially, to the market research done by the international airline that could be interested in this,” Mr. Pastor Roman added.

So far, zero international airlines have shown interest in operating cabotage flights from Mexico’s newest international airport.

A view of Mexico City's new airport.

Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno | Simple Flying.

NLU at 25% of its capacity

The idea of allowing international airlines to enter NLU is to increase the number of daily operations at the airport. The Felipe Ángeles International is currently at 25% of its daily capacity (which is about 40,000 passengers per day). On October 29, the hub received 8,025 passengers.

As of November 2022, NLU has 203 weekly flights operated by six carriers (Aeromexico, Arajet, Conviasa, Copa Airlines, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris). Aeromexico operates the largest number of flights per week, with 105. This means the airline has 13,449 seats available each week from NLU.

The airport only has three international routes currently. Conviasa flies from Caracas (CCS), Arajet from Santo Domingo (SDQ), and Copa Airlines from Panama City (PTY).

Do you think Mexico’s government should allow cabotage on its flagship new Felipe Ángeles International Airport? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Forbes.


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