When will Mexico regain FAA Category 1 status?

Mexico has been downgraded to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category 2 status for nearly nine months now. Reclaiming category 1 was slow, painful and not very easy. Mexico’s aviation industry hasn’t felt the full impact of its degradation, but it won’t be able to dodge that bullet for a long time. So when will Mexico regain its former status? Let’s investigate further.

What does it mean to be in Category 2 status?

The FAA classifies the aviation safety rating of countries that have direct connectivity to the United States into two categories, one and two. It grants this status based on an audit called the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA), which is a process that allows the FAA to determine whether another country’s oversight of its air carriers operating or seeking to operate in the United States United or codeshared with a US airline meets safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Carriers from Category 1 countries are allowed to operate in the United States and/or codeshare with US carriers. Meanwhile, carriers from Category 2 countries that operate in the United States have such limited services as long as they remain under this rating. They are also prohibited from launching new commercial services in the United States or sharing codes with American airlines. However, these restrictions do not fully apply to US airlines; US carriers can launch new routes to Category 2 countries, but they cannot seek new codeshare agreements.


Photo: Getty Images.

What happened in Mexico?

Between 2020 and 2021, the FAA conducted the IASA audit of Mexican authorities. The FAA decided to downgrade Mexico on May 25, 2021, after finding up to 28 areas of non-compliance with ICAO minimum safety standards.

In a statement, the FAA said:

“The FAA is fully committed to helping the Mexican Aviation Authority improve its safety oversight system to a level that meets ICAO standards. To achieve this, the FAA stands ready to provide its expertise and its resources in support of the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC) ongoing efforts to address issues identified in the IASA process AFAC and the FAA share a commitment to aviation safety Sustained progress can help AFAC return to Category 1.”

It was the second time in a row that the FAA had downgraded Mexico to Category 2 status. The last time was in 2010, and it took the then government four months to bounce back to Category 1 status. been longer as civil aviation faces the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, the Mexican government is pushing an austerity program that has led to budget constraints among many government entities, including civil aviation authorities.

Other countries currently in Category 2 are Bangladesh, Curaçao, Ghana, Malaysia, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Kitts and Nevis), Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela.

Airbus A319-112 N755US American Airlines MMMX 21 August 2021 AF 01

US airlines were able to increase their market share. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

So when will Mexico regain Tier 1 status?

Between February 21 and 25, FAA auditors will travel to Mexico as part of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries to help AFAC regain Category 1 status.

Viva Aerobus CEO Juan Carlos Zuazua said in a town hall meeting earlier this week,

“(We hope Mexico will regain Category 1 status) during First quarter 2022. We are optimistic that we will get there. Recovering the previous status will be very important to improve international tourism. We will continue to work together to have a strong regulator. Over the past few months, AFAC has been strengthened as a civil aviation authority.

Nevertheless, according to reports by local media El Financiero, Mexico was only able to resolve eight of the 28 areas of non-compliance.


Mexican carriers cannot add new routes to the United States. For example, this restriction will have an impact on the new international airport in Mexico City. Photo: Getty Images.

Possible consequences

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Mexican airlines did not feel the full impact of being in Category 2. When the United States downgraded Mexico, the market between the two countries was affected by the crisis, which meant that there was still room to continue to grow while being constrained. Mexican airlines, including Volaris and Viva Aerobus, were able to take advantage of Interjet’s exit, taking its place and attracting Mexican travelers. Nevertheless, this room closes quickly.

There will come a time when Mexican airlines can no longer expand with the routes and capacity they have. When that happens, US airlines will be able to gain even more market share.

Additionally, Mexican airlines cannot share the full code with their counterparts in the United States. This particularly impacts Viva Aerobus, which is seeking a joint venture with the American low-cost company Allegiant Air.

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

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