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09 August 2010

How FAA's downgrade of Mexico's safety rating affects you

Late last month, the FAA downgraded one of their key safety ratings for Mexico. This downgrade puts limits on flights to the US by Mexican air carriers, and also puts limits on what US airlines can do with Mexican airlines. However, if you currently have a reservation to fly to or from Mexico, you will probably not be affected.

FAA and the IASA program
The recent downgrade happened through the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) program. This program looks at a country's ability to make sure that the airlines in that country meet international standards for airline safety. These are standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is part of the United Nations.

The FAA puts countries into one of two categories. Category 1 is for countries that meet international standards, and Category 2 is for countries that don't meet the standard. Mexico was downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2.

The IASA program is very limited. The program doesn't look at the airlines of a country, it looks at the part of a country's government that oversees civil aviation. It also only looks at that country's ability to oversee international aviation.

How this change affects your travel plans
If you currently have a reservation with an airline from Mexico, this IASA situation will not affect you. Mexican airlines that currently fly to and from US can still do so, they just can't add any additional service. US airlines that currently fly to Mexico are also unaffected.

The FAA ruling doesn't affect international flights between Mexico and other countries, but often other countries follow the FAA's lead, so check with your airline just to be sure.

If you are flying on a domestic flight on a Mexican airline, the FAA ruling doesn't affect your flight at all.

Another effect of the FAA's ruling is that US airlines can't have code share flights with airlines from Mexico. A code share flight is one where you buy a ticket with one airline, but one or more segments of your flight are with another airline. For example, before the ruling, if bought a ticket through Delta, and your flight included a segment on a Mexican airline, your reservation would have shown a Delta flight number for that segment. The new ruling forces Delta to rebook the ticket so it would show the flight number for that Mexican airline. In other words, the paperwork changes but your flight doesn't.

The current Mexicana Airlines situation
Mexicana airlines is currently undergoing labor and financial difficulties that have caused the airline to suspend some of its flights, including flights to and from the US and other international destinations. This situation is separate from the IASA situation, and there are currently no serious safety issues associated with Mexicana.

Mexican airlines with international flights
This is a partial list of Mexican airlines with international flights to US:

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