The Almost Open Skies of Mexico

US and Mexican regulators agreed on a nearly Open Skies arrangement last week setting up the framework for many routes to see increased frequencies and competition in the transborder market. The deal stops short of a true open skies arrangement with respect to onward traffic rights but does allow for joint ventures and other, similar coordination amongst carriers. It is pretty much everything the industry has been expecting. Approval of the deal by the Mexican Senate is still required but that is also expected to happen without issue.

The 217 Currently schedule transborder routes
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

This is great news for Delta and Aeromexico. The former is moving to become a significant owner of the latter (as much as a 49% stake) and hoping to implement joint venture operations with antitrust immunity, allowing for the coordination of fares, schedules and connecting traffic. Both American and United have more transborder service today than either Delta or Aeromexico; the combined JV pair would take the leading spot in those rankings. It also allows for smoother passenger flow between the SkyTeam partners.

Reading these bilateral agreements also opens up a bit of a history lesson which can be entertaining. The most recent deal includes text from prior agreements for service authorities from and through specific cities. Things like 5th freedom routes still are well defined and they are interesting. For example, US-based airlines can carry passengers:

From Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio to Mexico City, Toluca, and Acapulco, and beyond to points in Panama and beyond; or,

From New York, Washington, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Houston to Mexico City and Toluca, and beyond to a point or points in Central and/or South America.

Similarly, Mexico-based airlines can carry passengers:

From Acapulco, Hermosillo, Mexico City, Toluca, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Tampico, Veracruz, Villahermosa, and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo to Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and St. Louis, and beyond to Canada; or,

From Acapulco, Guadalajara, Huatulco, Loreto, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Mexico City, Toluca, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, San Jose del Cabo, and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo to Boston and New York, and beyond to Europe; or,

From Cancun, Cozumel, Guadalajara, Merida, Mexico City, Toluca, and Monterrey to Houston and New Orleans, and beyond to Canada and Europe.

Almost none of these routes would be viable today but in a prior era they were certainly part of the global air traffic flows. And apparently neither side sees any reason to clear them from the books quite yet.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. WN might be interested in eventually trying out those 5th freedom rights BWI or HOU to MEX and then onwards to Central or South America. I’d consider flying them BWI-MEX-EZE on a B737 if the price were right. Although first they might want to get their intl and domestic res systems sorted….

    1. MEX-EZE on a 737 isn’t going to happen. Copa does it from PTY but that’s pretty much the edge of the range and comes before taking the “hot and high” of MEX into account.

      The market is also spectacularly different now than when those rules were written in. Mexico has InterJet and VivaAerobus running in the LCC space. The margins/yields for a 5th freedom route, with all the attendant crew rest and other logistics issues, are just not reasonable.

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