Last updated: 10:37 PM ET, Fri February 12 2016

Opinion Home | Magic of Mexico

  • Greg Custer | February 12, 2016 10:37 PM ET

    Mexican Airlines Soar

    Mexican Airlines Soar

    Illustration courtesy of Thinkstock

    I fly on Mexican airlines all the time. Now that I live just 30 minutes south of the Guadalajara Airport, I have regular occasion to experience the Mexico business travel world. These are giddy times in an aviation landscape that is maturing and hitting its stride after decades of turmoil. And the news is all good, especially for your multi-city customer who ventures beyond the all-inclusive walls.

    During the past couple of decades, stability is not a term commonly associated with Mexican aviation. This is ironic, since the now-bankrupt Mexicana de Aviación was an aviation pioneer, launching the very first commercial air service in North America back in 1921. The 1980-90s saw a flurry of new carriers come and go. Some via consolidation, others by debtors and some by maintenance violation grounding.

    When Mexicana Airlines ceased operations on August 28, 2010 it was a body blow to both international and domestic service. Aeromexico ruled the skies and barriers to entrance kept competition weak. A dearth of competition sent airfares to some of the world’s most expensive per seat mile. Even the shortest of flights would set you back no less than $200US and up, per leg.

    Over the past six years, a solid roster of Mexican carriers clawed their way to profitability. Interjet (profiting from Mexicana’s demise), Volaris (Mexico’s bare bones fare leader) and VivaAerobus (with Ryanair investment) now vie alongside Aeromexico (itself now being gobbled up by suitor Delta Airlines). Add tumbling fuel cost to this competitive environment, and the result is a previously unheard array of low cost choices, modern aircraft, and “wow” innovation.

    I use and am constantly amazed at ticket cost. Checking flights around Mexico’s upcoming Tianguis Turístico tradeshow (April 25-28), I found these roundtrip fares:

    I’ve flown GDL-CUN-GDL for a mere $140 US. My trip to Mexico City next week is $120 US (including $1,005 pesos in taxes). That’s a pretty slim profit margin. However, the marginal yield has not stopped the carriers from innovation. Here are some of the quirkier offers:

    Volaris: When I booked GDL-SJD last month, Volaris offered me a camel ride excursion. When I flew to Cancun last week, I was given the chance to “bet” against the house: if my flight wasn’t within 30 minutes of scheduled arrival, I get $100 US credit. As luck would have it, the flight was two and a half hours late, but I had declined for fork over the two bucks. Maybe next time.

    Interjet: last September was Tequila Month, and the carrier poured copious shots of top-shelf tequila to its smiling customers. Interjet is also the comfort leader (and my personal favorite), with no charge for extra legroom and comfy leather seats!

    Aeromexico: want to upgrade to Clase Premier? Aeromexico offers a sliding scale to ‘bid’ for an available seat. I can also click to add $7 dollar trip insurance or a carbon offset.

    Today, a perfect storm of falling fuel cost and a solid roster of carriers have given rise to a new era for Mexico’s domestic air customers. So next time you send a client to Puerto Vallarta, perhaps ask, “How about a day shopping in Guadalajara?”

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Greg Custer Magic of Mexico

Greg Custer Greg Custer is a California native with more than 35 years working in various international travel industry capacities. He spent 14 years in aviation (TWA, Mexicana, Aerocalifornia). With a love for studying all things Latin America, (BA/MA UCLA, Latin American Studies) he is a leading authority on travel agent educational programs for Latin American tourism boards. Greg is fluent in written and spoken Spanish and has conducted hundreds of training workshops for travel agents. He is an accomplished travel photographer and author (with wife Jane) of the “Magic of Mexico” travel agent study guide. He resides in Ajijic (Jalisco) Mexico, enjoying one foot in the modern world and the other in Mexican pueblo life.
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