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FAA downgrades Mexico's aviation safety rating

Aviation Updates Philippines – The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has downgraded Mexico's aviation safety rating from Category 1 to Category 2, preventing Mexican carriers from launching additional services to the United States, and American carriers from codesharing with Mexican airlines. 

Photo by Anna Zvereva on Wikimedia Commons

The FAA announced on Tuesday (May 25) that a review of its Mexican counterpart — the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC) — from October of 2020 to February of 2021 "identified several areas of non-compliance with minimum ICAO safety standards."

ICAO is the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for recommending and creating aviation safety standards for 193 countries.

The FAA did not publicly disclose the specific issues which caused the downgrade. However, a Category 2 rating typically means that a country's laws lack the necessary requirements to oversee the country's airlines in accordance with minimum international safety standards. It could also mean that the country's civil aviation authority has fallen short in one or more areas including technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, inspection procedures, or the resolution of safety concerns.

A report by Reuters stated that the FAA found around two dozen non-compliance issues, with only four resolved by Mexico.

The FAA said in its official statement that it is "fully committed to helping the Mexican aviation authority improve its safety oversight system to a level that meets ICAO standards." The agency added that it is ready to provide expertise and resources to support the AFAC's ongoing efforts to resolve the issues identified during the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) process.

Four of Mexico's airlines — Aeromexico, Aeromar, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus — currently operate a total of 5,771 monthly flights between Mexico and the US. Under the Category 2 designation, Mexican carriers will not be allowed to add flights to their existing routes, nor will they be able to launch flights to new destinations in the US. Furthermore, affected carriers will only be allowed to use previously authorized aircraft types on all their US-bound flights.

The downgrading of Mexico's aviation safety rating also affects American carriers Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines. Delta currently has a Joint Venture Agreement as well as a codeshare agreement with fellow SkyTeam member Aeromexico. Frontier Airlines, meanwhile, has a codeshare agreement with Volaris.

Delta, which owns a 49% stake in Aeromexico, said that its flights to Mexico will continue to operate normally, though passengers who bought tickets for flights sold by Delta but operated by Aeromexico may need to have their tickets reissued.

"For customers who have booked a flight with Delta that is operated by Aeromexico, Delta may reissue their reservation onto the corresponding Aeromexico-operated flight," a spokesperson for the Atlanta-based carrier said in a statement. "Delta apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause our customers, and will continue to coordinate with Aeromexico to minimize any disruptions."

This is the second time in Mexico's history that the oversight of its airlines has been called into question by the FAA. The agency previously downgraded Mexico's aviation safety rating for four months in 2010 due to a lack of flight inspectors.

Aside from Mexico, other countries with a Category 2 rating include Bangladesh, Curacao, Ghana, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, Venezuela, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis).

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