Mexican government officials travel to the United States seeking a Category 1 security clearance

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The Mexican government will send an array of officials to the United States to meet with members of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in an effort to regain Category 1 status after it was downgraded in May 2021. The downgrade to Category 2 has a profound impact on Mexico. the airline industry, with carriers such as Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus and Volaris unable to add new commercial flight routes and capacity to the United States.


Does Mexico regain its Category 1 status?

This week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said a team led by a member of the country’s infrastructure, communications and transportation secretariat would travel to Washington and meet with FAA officials. He added that significant progress has been made in resolving issues identified in the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) process in 2021.

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“We are making great progress. They will go this weekend to Washington because there is a meeting in the United States where they will try to regain the highest category. Mr. López Obrador added while addressing the media.

On May 25, 2021, the FAA announced that the Mexican government is failing to meet safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Based on a reassessment by Mexico’s Civil Aviation Authority, the FAA downgraded Mexico’s rating to Category 2 from Category 1. This rating allows Mexican air carriers to continue existing service to United States, but it prohibits any new service and route. US airlines may not market and sell tickets with their names and designator codes on flights operated in Mexico. After the downgrade, the FAA increased its scrutiny of Mexican airline flights to the United States.

Photo: Getty Images.

What progress has actually been made?

Progress in regaining Category 1 status in Mexico has been extremely slow, despite calls from local airlines that solving the problem is essential for the future development of the industry.

As reported by local media, it is currently expected that restoration of Category 1 status will be delayed until at least March 2023, nearly two years after the downgrade. It is not uncommon for countries to take years to regain Tier 1 status; for example, Malaysia regained its status in October 2022 after being downgraded in 2019.

But for Mexico, connectivity with the United States is of crucial importance. The United States is Mexico’s largest trading partner; the aviation market between the two countries is one of the largest in the world and has fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic since last year. Between January and September, 26.17 million passengers traveled between the two countries, up 25% from 2021 levels. And, despite all these good developments, the Mexican government has not recovered category status. 1.

Photo: Getty Images.

What is the impact of downgrading?

During its reassessment from October 2020 to February 2021, the FAA identified several areas of non-compliance with ICAO minimum safety standards. A Category 2 classification means that the country’s laws or regulations lack the necessary requirements to oversee the country’s air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards, or that the civil aviation authority is lacking in one or more areas such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping, inspection procedures or resolving security issues.

Mexican airlines cannot add new routes or aircraft on routes to the United States. For example, Viva Aerobus said it had to temporarily suspend the launch of seven new routes to that country. Mexico’s three main carriers have had to find ways to allocate new capacity (they are getting new planes from Boeing and Airbus) on different routes.

In September, a local think tank reported that local carriers had lost about 9.2 billion pesos ($460 million) in sales and carried 2.3 million fewer passengers due to the downgrade.

When do you think Mexico will regain its Category 1 status? Let us know in the comments below.

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