Mexico airlines, authorities see coveted U.S. safety rating months away

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: An AeroMexico airplane prepares to land on the airstrip at Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico City

By Kylie Madry

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - A year after the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) downgraded Mexico's air safety rating, Mexican airline and government representatives say regaining the coveted Category 1 rating could still be months away.

In a letter sent on Monday to Mexico's civil aviation agency, the FAA delayed a technical review required for a possible restoration "by some weeks," dealing a blow to an industry already reeling from a string of safety incidents in Mexico City's airspace.

"I think that the recovery will be achieved by September or by the end of November," Deputy Transportation Minister Rogelio Jimenez told local news outlet El Financiero.

Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco said in an interview this week that the ministry hopes an upgrade will come "in the next few months."

The FAA downgraded Mexico's rating in May 2021. It argued Mexico lacked the "necessary requirements to oversee the country's air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards, or the civil aviation authority is lacking in one or more areas such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping, inspection procedures or resolution of safety concerns."

Mexican authorities had promised that regaining the rating would be a "quick and easy process," but that has not been the case.

"Unfortunately, we still do not see clearly when this recovery of Category 1 will happen," Walfred Castro, director of corporate communications at VivaAerobus, told Reuters on Monday at Mexico's tourism conference in the beach resort city of Acapulco.

Castro said VivaAerobus had offered up its flight simulators to improve flight safety, though a number of recent incidents in Mexico City's airspace, including one caught on video in which two Volaris planes almost crash, have caused concern.

Despite its partnership with U.S.-based Delta Air Lines Inc, Aeromexico is unable to expand routes to the United States until Mexico recoups the rating, Rodrigo Sandoval, Aeromexico's director of banks and loyalty, said.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry in Acapulco; Writing by Brendan O'Boyle; Editing by Matthew Lewis)