Mexico City air freight restriction decree seen harming cargo airlines

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, January 19, 2023
Mexico City air freight restriction decree seen harming cargo airlines

Attempts to shut cargo operations at Benito Juárez international airport (AICM) serving Mexico City will have deep impacts on airlines, but also benefit a government flagship project. 

At least 10 airlines, both national and international, will be affected by a presidential decree, which is yet to be published in the official  gazette, aviation analyst Carlos Torres told BNamericas. 

There is a big “possibility that these operations will be transferred to Felipe Ángeles international airport [AIFA]. This would generate more volunteer traffic, not only passenger but also cargo cases,” he said. 

“The truth is that [AIFA] has potential to move the cargo area, to expand it because in reality the Mexican market for air cargo transportation continues to be very thin. When you review the figures of other countries, even within Latin America and not to mention the US or Europe, there is a much more developed cargo industry and cargo moves by air rather than by land,” Torres said. 

On Tuesday, the government published a draft decree to end cargo operations at Mexico’s most important airport during the second half. 

According to the decree, the new regulation would prioritize passenger over freight transport since the two-terminal airport has been saturated for a long time. However, Torres said that reducing cargo operations at AICM will not make a big difference. 

“It will not decongest the airport significantly because it represents between 30 and 32 operations per day, which is about 3% of AICM operations,” he said. 

Since the announcement, several experts and associations have criticized the plans, claiming the real intention is to boost traffic at the government flagship project in Mexico state. Defense ministry Sedena inaugurated the civil-military passenger terminal in March 2021, but the facility remains underused. 

During his morning press conference on Thursday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “we are looking for cargo planes to use the Felipe Ángeles airport, it is coming, this agreement with customs agencies, with those who are dedicated to transporting cargo in airplanes, is progressing quite well.” 

According to Torres, it makes sense to turn AIFA into a logistics hub, but its lack of connectivity, such as unfinished highway links, does not seem attractive to airlines. At the same time, AICM holds the biggest cargo market in Mexico. 

“No other airport in the country concentrates the level of cargo that is handled there, and particularly those goods and services are transferred to international markets, where AICM has the largest amount,” he said. 

On Wednesday, air transport chamber Canaero criticized the decree, saying it lacks studies and analysis. It also said that 90 days is too little for airlines to migrate to another terminal.

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