TREND: Tourism is one of Mexico’s primary sources of income. The industry is dealing with the potential loss of hundreds of billions of dollars. Airline carriers such as American Airlines, Delta, and United, maintain service to Mexico but at a reduced schedule, flying mainly from their respective hubs to Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara. The country extended its national confinement measures until June 1. At any moment, many regions could enter Phase-3 of the contingency plan for the pandemic leading to further restrictions or curfews.
•Service to Mexico from the U.S. is considered short-haul yet crucial due to the integration of North American economies and for regional connectivity. American Airlines and Delta have reduced their international capacity by at least 60 percent. Flights to Mexico still depart from cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Salt Lake City.
•The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) waived minimum slot-use requirements for airlines at some airports until the end of May, expecting other countries to act reciprocally. Airlines must use at least 80 percent of their assigned slots at congested airports or risk losing them. This regulation led to ‘ghost flights’ on international routes last month when planes flew without passengers to comply with the law.
•The majority of air travel between Mexico and the U.S. is still open for business purposes. Many Mexican companies still operated during the first half of April. International departures and arrivals at Mexico City Airport fell by almost 45 percent during March compared with the same period of last year. The number of passengers using this hub peaked on March 13 (approximately 136,500 travelers) on an important date that was supposed to signal the start of the Spring holidays. Tourist destinations like Cancún and Cabo San Lucas remain under the confinement measures until June 1, and it’s unsure when regular air service from the U.S. will resume.
•Mexican authorities established protocols in the busiest airports following recommendations from the Mexican Health Ministry. Measures included screening points for patients with fevers or other symptoms of COVID-19 using digital thermometers or thermographic cameras. Travelers must also fill registration forms about previous travel to regions that could put them and others at risk of contagion. The use of face masks and antibacterial-gel is obligatory inside airports. Terminals have a higher number of medical personnel at hand. Thorough disinfection of premises happens weekly, and sanitation of airplanes takes place after every flight.
TAKEAWAY: Authorities remain unsure about when and how activities can return to previous levels. Travel and hospitality services are an essential component of the Mexican economy. Still, substantial disruptions to the sector are expected for the rest of the year and probably 2021 as well. Even if some restrictions are lifted, the industry will not fully recover until travelers feel confident and safe enough to use transport and lodging services.
* Riskop is a consulting firm focused on strategic intelligence and risk mitigation for investors and decision-makers in complex sociopolitical environments. It is located in Monterrey, Mexico. Twitter: @RiskopMx