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US raises Mexico air safety rating in boost for country's airlines

Mexico still has 'differences' with U.S. on air safety rating, president says

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Thursday it has upgraded Mexico's air safety rating, a move that will allow Mexican carriers to expand U.S. routes and add new service.

Reuters reported the planned announcement earlier Thursday.

Mexico was downgraded by the U.S. regulator in May 2021 after the agency found the country did not meet safety standards. The downgrade was a major blow to Mexico carriers, as U.S. airlines were able to scoop up market share.

Mexico overhauled its civil aviation law, but faced several hurdles and spent years in recovering the Category 1 rating.

The return of Mexico to the highest aviation safety rating followed "more than two years of close work between the countries' civil aviation authorities," the FAA said in a statement.

Airlines like Aeromexico and Volaris can now add new U.S. routes and potentially carry out marketing agreements with U.S. carriers. The upgrade also means U.S. airlines can resume marketing and selling tickets with their names and designator codes on Mexican-operated flights.

Mexico's Transport Minister Jorge Nuno said he received a letter from the U.S. embassy confirming the upgrade.

Local airlines could add some 50 Mexico-U.S. routes that would be active this winter following the change, he said in a radio interview.

Mexico remains the top international destination for U.S. airline passengers. Through July, 23.4 million passengers were on U.S.-Mexico flights, significantly more than the 17.4 million between the U.S. and Canada, the second biggest destination.

Mexican airline Aeromexico said the change will boost connectivity and allow a better use of its fleet.

Executives said in March it had received 50 aircraft since the COVID-19 pandemic begun, which had been unable to fly to the U.S. amid the rating downgrade.

The FAA provided expertise and resources to "resolve the safety issues that led to the downgrade."

In a June audit, the FAA raised concerns about Mexico's process for post-accident investigations and for carrying out medical exams for sector employees, meeting minutes obtained by Reuters showed.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Valentine Hilaire and Kylie Madry in Mexico City; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Richard Chang and Marguerita Choy)