Mexico-US Air Travel Market almost back to 2019 levels


While most international travel is still suffering the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mexico-United States market is almost back to 2019 levels. By October 2021, the airlines operating routes between these two neighbors had recovered 92% of their traffic.

What’s even more impressive, the US carriers alone have nearly bounced back by 98%. Let’s investigate further.

Bouncing back

The Mexico-US market is going strong in 2021. Since May, the airlines operating between both countries have averaged more monthly passengers than they had in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

According to Mexico’s civil aviation authorities, there have been 23.3 million passengers in 2021. A couple of years ago, the binational market had received 25.3 million travelers by that point.

Mexico has remained as the only wholly open market throughout the pandemic. Even through the worst period of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were able to fly to Mexico with zero restrictions. This openness led to a surge of US holiday seekers gathering in key leisure destinations like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos.

The main players in the market

US and Mexican carriers quickly realized the recovery in the market and put in as much capacity as possible while opening new routes. Nonetheless, Mexican carriers have been constrained from opening new routes and adding frequencies into the US in the last few months. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

In the meantime, American Airlines is the largest operator in the Mexico-US market. As of October 2021, it had a 17.3% market share operating 4,615 flights to 23 Mexican destinations from nine US cities. Dallas Fort Worth remains the gateway into Mexico for American Airlines.

United Airlines is not that much behind, with a 15.8% market share. The two US carriers are followed by Volaris, Mexico’s low-cost airline, with a 14.0% market share.

Delta Air Lines has a 10.5% market share, and its partner, Aeromexico, has an 8.4%. Combined, the two operators (which have a Joint Venture) are Mexico-US’s leading operators.

For Mexican travelers, Houston, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort Worth, Chicago, and Miami are the main destinations in the United States.

What about Category 2?

Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Mexico to Category 2 following an investigation through the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.

Being in Category 2 constrains the Mexican airlines from increasing their connectivity to the United States. They are, to all extents, frozen in time. On the other side, US carriers can add routes and frequencies as they like, without restrictions. And they have done it.

US airlines currently have over 70% of the market share between both countries.

Nonetheless, the Mexican carriers can still grow without adding new routes or frequencies. They can do it through their load factors.

According to the Mexican government stats, the load factor in flights between both countries is at 77.75% on average. There’s room for improvement. For example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, European low-cost carriers averaged between 90 and 95% load factors on international routes throughout the continent. That’s the mark Mexican airlines (mainly low-costs like Volaris and Viva Aerobus) should aspire to. If they can do it, they’ll be able to cope with the Category 2 while Mexican authorities regain their prior status.

by Daniel Martínez Garbuno for


Mexico Daily Post