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The Mexican aviation market has been in almost constant flux and overwhelmingly unprofitable in the past decade. The turbulence generated seven airline casualties between 2007 and 2010, including the market’s biggest casualty during the recession, former oneworld carrier Mexicana. The market looks to have stabilised following the exit of Mexicana, which was the country’s largest international carrier, with a healthy group of four dominant carriers – comprising one legacy and three low-cost carriers. Mexico’s growth fundamentals remain sound, with a large population, strong economic growth and a population spread over large area.
Airports in Mexico
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Aeromexico saw its profits drop for the second consecutive year in 2012 as it was only able to grow passenger traffic by 3% despite double-digit growth for the overall Mexican market. But Mexico’s only surviving legacy airline group remains in the black and its outlook remains relatively bright given its strong position in the Mexican market and the resurgence of the country’s economy.
Grupo Aeromexico is planning to grow capacity (ASKs) by a further 6% in 2013, matching the 6% capacity increase from 2012. But the group is targeting higher RPK growth and load factors, which it hopes will allow it to regain the share of the domestic market it lost in 2012.
Internationally, Aeromexico is planning to grow capacity by up-gauging routes, including replacing 767-200s with new 787-8s to London and Paris. Aeromexico also plans to deploy its first batch of 787s to New York, which it currently only serves with 737s. Aeromexico now expects it will receive three 787-8s in 4Q2013, representing a delay of about three months due to the current grounding of the global 787 fleet.
Mexico’s domestic market recorded double-digit growth in 2012 for the first time in five years and only the second time this century. The Mexican aviation industry has reached its healthiest point since deregulation led to the launch of five low-cost carriers seven years ago. The market now features a strong legacy airline group and three LCCs which are seeking to cash in on their relatively strong positions by holding initial public offerings.
Mexican carriers flew 28.1 million domestic and 5.9 million international passengers in 2012, according to newly released statistics from Mexico’s DGAC. Domestically the market grew by 10% while the much smaller international market grew by 23%. Foreign carriers serving Mexico recorded much more modest growth of 3%, but still dominate Mexico’s international market with 21.2 million passengers carried in 2012.
VivaAerobus and VivaColombia are planning further expansion in the Mexican and Colombian domestic markets in 2013 while they remain separate entities without any network or operating synergies. But the two low-cost carriers could start exploring a closer partnership in 2014 as VivaAerobus looks to potentially join VivaColombia as an A320 operator and launch services to other Latin American countries.
Meanwhile, Irish investment firm Irelandia Aviation, which owns stakes in VivaAerobus and VivaColombia, continues to study establishing a third Viva affiliate in a new Latin American market. With the Viva brand already established in Colombia and Mexico, and as the Brazilian market is currently over-saturated, smaller Latin American markets that lack any local LCCs are being studied. The Viva group could ultimately consist of several LCCs, with most of the carriers being small in size but enjoying economies of scale by being part of a pan-Latin American group.
Mexico’s Volaris is planning another year of rapid expansion as the low-cost carrier sees further opportunities in the Mexican domestic market. The airline also expects to further expand during 2013 in the US, where it now has a network of 10 destinations, but for the second consecutive year faster capacity growth will be pursued domestically.
Volaris, which serves 27 destinations in Mexico, is now the third largest carrier in Mexico’s domestic market on a seat capacity basis but the largest on an ASK basis. Volaris expanded its fleet by seven aircraft in 2012, ending the year with 41 A320 family aircraft.
The airline expects to end 2013 with at least 44 aircraft but could end up with up to 48 aircraft if it decides to postpone the phase out of A319s.
Rapid growth among Mexico’s three low-cost carriers – Interjet, VivaAerobus and Volaris – helped drive international passengers transported by Mexican carriers up 42% year-over-year during 1Q2012 as those airlines further expanded into US transborder markets and introduced new flights from Mexico to Central America and the Caribbean.
Mexico’s airlines transported 1.3 million international passengers during the first three months of this year compared with 924,916 during the prior year period, according to data from Mexico's DGAC. Interjet had the most dramatic growth, increasing its share of Mexico's international market (among Mexican carriers) from zero to 5.8% year-over-year. Interjet launched its first international flights last year and now operates from Mexico City to Guatemala, Havana, Miami and San Antonio and from Toluca to San Antonio.
Interjet currently operates 12 weekly roundtrip flights with Airbus A320s from its main base at Mexico City to San Antonio and three weekly flights from Toluca, where the carrier has its headquarters, maintenance facility and a smaller base.
Mexico’s three low-cost carriers are planning another year of rapid growth as they continue to benefit from the 2010 collapse of Grupo Mexicana. Interjet, Volaris and VivaAerobus saw their combined domestic passenger traffic grow by 41% in 2011 to 13.8 million passengers. Their international operations expanded even faster last year albeit on a very small base, recording 91% growth to 1.2 million passengers. More rapid growth is expected across both the domestic and international networks as the Mexico’s LCC trio plans to take delivery of 17 additional aircraft in 2012, representing 20% growth and resulting in a combined LCC fleet of 101 aircraft.
The LCC penetration rate in Mexico’s dynamic domestic market reached 54% in 2011, compared to 50% in 2010. The total domestic market grew by 4% in 2011 to 25.455 million passengers, which is still 8% below the peak of 2008 when Mexican carriers transported 27.649 million domestic passengers. But the fact Mexico has been able to grow at all the last two years (in 2010 growth was under 1%) is quite an achievement given the sudden collapse in Aug-2010 of Mexicana, which had about a 28% share of the domestic market.