Airlines Continue to Spread Wings Over Mexico

Airlines are responding to increasing U.S. and Canadian demand for service to Mexico by widening service options to the country’s many destinations. With greater air access, the airlines contribute to boosting international tourist arrivals.

During the past six months, a mix of major airlines and low-cost carriers in the United States and Canada have enhanced service schedules to different parts of Mexico through additional frequencies of existing routes and the launch of new services.

“That airlines across the board are increasing flight options to Mexico demonstrates the high degree of confidence the travel industry has in our country, and the interest travelers have in discovering Mexico for themselves. Mexicans are known around the world for their warmth and hospitality, and North American travelers will be welcomed with open arms,” said Magdalena Carral, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board.

Expansion of air transportation inbound to Mexico is aligned with the goal of the Mexican government’s comprehensive, long-term tourism plan to increase the number of international visitors. With 21.9 million visitors in 2005, the country is ranked seventh as an international tourism destination according to World Tourism Organization figures released in June.

Among the airlines increasing flights is Delta Air Lines. In recent months, the Atlanta-based carrier initiated new non-stop service to Mexico destinations such as Acapulco, Merida, and Ixtapa from Atlanta; Mazatlan from Salt Lake City; and Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Frontier Airlines another carrier on the forefront to expand service to Mexico, has announced plans to launch round-trip service between Denver and Guadalajara. The service will mark the eighth Mexican city to be served by Frontier. The four weekly flights to Guadalajara, slated to begin Dec. 22, are part of Denver-based Frontier’s plans to increase its Mexican service by 30 percent during the peak winter holiday season; Frontier will add flight frequencies from Denver to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Frontier announced that it will begin new, non-stop service between San Diego and Cancun with one flight weekly starting Dec. 16.

Adding three new Mexico routes this year, United Airlines’ most recent launch was in July connecting Chicago and Cancun. The carrier had initiated its Los Angeles-Cancun and Chicago’s-Puerto Vallarta routes in March. Together, United serves 16 routes between the United States and Mexico excluding two seasonal routes, Denver-Mexico City and Denver-Ixtapa, which run during the winter months. The new flights to Mexico are offered via the United and the airline’s low-cost counterpart, Ted.

Seasonal flight services to be added during the winter months will include American Airlines’ announced plans to start one round-trip, non-stop service weekly from JFK to Mexico’s San Jose del Cabo in the Baja California region, effective Dec. 16 through April 9, 2007. The legacy airline, which has been operating flights to the Mexico market since 1941, currently serves San Jose del Cabo with three flights daily from Dallas/Fort Worth, two daily from Los Angeles, and three weekly flights from Chicago.

Other flight additions to existing routes include service by Alaska Airlines, which will lengthen its list of services to Mexico resort cities this fall with six more weekly flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco, thus increasing its Mexico capacity by 22 percent. The carrier also plans to inaugurate non-stop services between Los Angeles and La Paz, San Francisco and Cancún, and Seattle and Cancún, as well as between Portland, Oregon to both Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.

Northwest Airlines’ announcement of additional weekday frequencies during the winter travel season between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Mexico cities Acapulco, Manzanillo and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. The airline, subject to government approval, will also include service from Detroit to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo that will operate from Jan. 20 through March 31, 2007, as well as a new service between Memphis and Cozumel to operate on Saturdays from Feb. 17 through April 14, 2007.

Although Continental Airlines has not added new services in recent months, the airline is a strong player in the market currently operating more than 580 flights weekly to 30 Mexican destinations from Texas airports in Laredo, McCallen and Houston, as well as from Newark’s Liberty International Airport and Los Angeles. Continental did however, announce with Alitalia codeshare expansion already in place to provide improved transfer services between Italy, Canada and Mexico.

Canadian airlines are also hovering over Mexico skies. Air Canada will add 25 more non-stop flights per week this winter between Canada and Mexico for a total of 61 weekly. The new routes to Mexico include service between Toronto to Cozumel and Ixtapa, slated to begin mid-December, as well as a Montreal-Mexico City service introduced on June 17.

Sunwing Airlines’ announced plans to begin this fall to operate one flight each between Montreal and Ottawa to Acapulco on Wednesdays and to Cancun on Fridays. Earlier this year, Sunwing started service between Toronto and Cozumel and the airline will operate a Sudbury and Cancun route for the winter season from December through March 2007.

For the winter season, Sunquest Airlines will also begin services from Hamilton to Cancun and Riviera Maya starting in December.

Mexican airlines also expand services
The increased number of expanded routes, however, has not been limited to international services. Mexican airlines, particularly the low-cost carriers, are also boosting services. Private and semi-private airlines such as Avolar, ABC Interjet and Volaris, as well as Mexicana Airline’s carrier Click Mexicana have launched low-cost flights to different parts of Mexico. Aladia, one of Mexico’s newest airlines, is slated to launch this summer.

Mexico’s domestic service currently caters to approximately 2.5 million passengers, representing some 6.5 percent of Mexican tourists who travel via air within the country.

Flying beyond Mexico borders, Mexican airlines Aeromexico and Mexicana operate daily routes between JFK airport and Mexico City. Mexicana will also operate a route between Baltimore, Maryland and its low-fare carrier Click Mexicana will launch a Cancun-Miami flight later this summer. Avolar also plans to serve a select few of U.S. cities later this year. Within Mexico, Aeromexico is increasing flight offerings with new routes between Mexico City and Villahermosa, Merida and Cancun.

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Erick Laseca
Mexico Tourism Board
312-228-0517 x14
erick.laseca@bm.com