Alaska Airlines’ Mexico City Failure

Filed Under: Alaska

It’s pretty crazy to me how quickly Alaska Airlines gave up here.

Alaska Airlines has been flying to Mexico for several years, though most of their routes are to leisure destinations, including Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, etc.

It was only last year that Alaska Airlines secured slots to operate flights to Mexico City, and the airline announced that they’d operate flights there from three California gateways — Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Here’s how they ramped up service:

  • Alaska started once daily 737 flights between LAX and MEX as of August 8, 2017
  • Alaska started once daily 737 flights between SFO and MEX as of August 8, 2017
  • Alaska added a second daily E175 flight between LAX and MEX as of November 6, 2017
  • Alaska started one daily E175 flights between SAN and MEX as of November 6, 2017

Then Alaska Airlines canceled flights from San Diego and San Francisco to Mexico City as of May 19, 2018. That’s just nine months after they started San Francisco service, and six months after they started San Diego service.

Now the airline has revealed that they’re pulling out of Mexico City altogether. Alaska Airlines is canceling flights between Los Angeles and Mexico city as of November 6, 2018.

Mexico City is both a big leisure and business destination, so presumably there’s lots of demand. The issue is that Los Angeles to Mexico City is also extremely competitive.

Aeromexico, Alaska, American, Delta, Interjet, United, and Volaris all operate flights between the two airports. Fares are incredibly low at around $100 one-way, and even close to departure fares don’t get that much higher.

I guess Alaska just wasn’t able to secure any corporate contracts required to make routes like this work, which isn’t surprising, since they don’t have as much frequency or connectivity as other carriers. At least with Alaska’s “vacation” routes to Mexico, fares can get really high, so I can see how those work much better.

Are you surprised to see Alaska pull out of Mexico City so quickly?

  1. I’m less surprised about this than I am to see that Southwest only flies to Mexico City from Houston. I would have thought they’d have *something* from one of the five LA-area airports they serve.

  2. Remember Alaska dropped Mexico City previously having sold its authority from LAX to AA in 2015.
    At the time they had stated route was long time loss making. Obviously things did not improve this time around either.

  3. United is ending LAX-MEX service as well, and AA is going from 2x daily to 1x daily. That route is about to get a lot less crowded — from seven carriers (which is really six, because of the AM-DL JV) to five (which is really four), and one of the five is only running 1x daily. Prices should go up substantially.

  4. maybe if AS didn’t end their AeroMexico partnership, they wouldn’t have to cancel it *wink wink*

  5. Not at all surprised. On Mexico City routes, the vast majority of demand comes from the Mexico City side, not the US side. Selling to Mexican customers in Mexico City requires investment and infrastructure that Alaska simply didnt have there – namely, contracts with Mexican ticket consolidators and some corporate business. Also, in Mexico, customers are very use to walking into travel agencies and/ or city ticket offices and simply paying with cash. There’s a reason that United and American still have city ticket offices in Mexico City where customers can do this. These are the reasons Alaska failed in Mexico City – they simply didnt have the infrastructure to pull it off and dont seem to have made the investment. The beach destinations are flights full of Americans going on vacation, and Alaska has nurtured that business for years. Very different type of business.

  6. I flew the sfo-mex route a few times on AS including once to position for that IPC J route, the flights were pretty empty every time I flew that route but it was a guarantee upgrade even as just an AS mvp. Not too surprising given the loads.

  7. Alaska Airlines could have partnered with other carriers to offer quick and competitive priced connections. Without product differentiation and convenience the airline cannot appeal to the big spenders.

  8. Alaska could once upon a time count of AeroMexico feeding domestic flights into Mexico City for connections. The Delta push effectively ended that.

  9. It always had great first class award availability so it was great to connect to LAN to South America. LAN had easy business class availability to/from Mexico city down to santiago or lima and from there further south to Buenos Aires.

  10. William Y where the &^%&%&^$^ did that comment come from? I am not going to comment further as one can imagine what I would say there goes my morning of reading interesting travel post

  11. THis is another article that goes beyond telling the reader information but tries to guess at business operations when the writer doesn’t really understand how business works. Being an expert at travel does not qualify someone to know how to successfully operate an airline. Prices that low, with no increase close to departure means there is no real demand. Having that many flights available probably points to old contracts that won’t be renewed. Trying to establish business between the US and Mexico right now is a nightmare. Please don’t be surprised when other airlines start cutting as well. This airline is the first rat off the sinking ship.

  12. On the other end, Jetblue has been ramping up MEX service from the east coast, with Boston starting soon.

  13. SAN-MEX was a terrible decision. You can now park on the US side of the border and walk across the airport bridge to go directly to the Tijuana airport and fly TIJ-MEX very cheaply.

  14. At this point Alaska is really on thin ice right now. What I’d like to see is a rebranding of sorts, where Alaska becomes a regional/low-cost carrier within the actual state of Alaska while the rest of the airline is rebranded as a rebirth of the old Northwest Airlines.

  15. @Lucky- I’m affected by this cancellation of service, since I held a booking on LAX-MEX later in the year. Any idea what AS policy is for extra compensation in situations like these, outside of the expected re-booking on another airline?

  16. I don’t think there will ever be a successful SAN-MEX route as you can now park at the border and fly out of TIJ for pennies.

  17. I have a round trip affected by this and all I can say is I’ve never seen an airline behave so erratically and care free than Alaska has after this Virgin America merger. They have killed so many non-stops and I’ve been affected 3 times this year so far. This time I don’t even know what they are going to do, and they don’t either. I’ve called three times now and they literally say they don’t know how they are handling people that had reservations yet. Any normal airline would have people re-booked already. Instead they keep offering me a refund and although I’ve always loved Alaska customer service, I’m about to lose it on this one. Why on earth would I take a refund and relieve them of the cost of their decisions to cancel a route. It will cost me quite a bit more to rebook at this late stage of the game so close to my holiday travel reservation.

  18. @Jason
    Not my experience (about traffic’s just being MEX-LAX, and not the return). I travel that route about 6 times a year (on United) and have never bought a one-way ticket, but always a RT ticket (MEX-LAX-MEX). Never paid less than about $600-800 in Business. And I would imagine that those going from MEX to LAX are planning to return and therefore also buy a RT ticket, so generally, wouldn’t the traffic outbound be about the same as the inbound? Just my thoughts on this.

    Last time (July, 2018, en route to Haneda), chose to fly AM, in business, and my God, what a difference from UA! The food was excellent, the service beyond excellent, and the civility of the FA’s (all male for some reason) made the trip really WORTH $700! Forget the mileage accrual!

    Since UA is pulling out of this route on October 8, I now have an more appealing alternative, with less “attitude.”

  19. @Lucky, would you mind explaining at some point how corporate/entertainment contracts work, and how they’re secured?

    Any insight you can provide is much appreciated.

  20. Since they bought the rights from AS, I have been flying this route on AA at least 10 times a year, in one direction or another. So I was surprised with AS went back in, not too surprised they are pulling out.

    The 2X daily AA service always suffered from having one untenable red-eye (LAX-MEX), which was always pretty empty, and very poor schedule for feeding LAX Asia routes (which is my main interest). I was not surprised when they downgraded one of the two to A319, and I’m not surprised they are now cancelling the red-eye/early morning rotation, leaving the one rotation which sort-of makes sense for O&D traffic. But alas it looks like it will continue to operate on the tiny A319, with only 8 seats in business, which is a shame.

    Now, if only AA used that extra slot for JFK service… a market unserved by OneWorld since the demise of Mexicana. But by now is clear that NYC is getting no love from AA.

  21. I’m a bit surprised that AS is pulling out of MEX altogether, again, and after just a few months. I’ve flown this route often, even before they pulled out the first time in 2015. Seems there were always empty F class seats, which indicated to me a big gap in customer loyalty in this market. What doesn’t make any sense, is that AS went back into this market, and with additional service from SAN and SFO, and didn’t have effective plans to improve its’ marketing and customer loyalty in CDMX. I already have ticket several more trips on AS and am impacted…and AS doesn’t provide any information about reaccommodation or addressing how they will handle milage accrual to maintain 75k status..for me it’s 8k miles each trip; not insignificant. I’m dissatisfied enough by their whiplash style marketing and route planning to defect and move over to DL using an elite status match. AS has some serious deficits with regard to global airline partners and this isn’t helping. They tout relationships with BA, for example, but the highest tier AS customer can’t even request an advance seat assignment on BA since AS isn’t in part of One World. What gives AS?

  22. Random comments:

    @Lucky —> Yes, I’m quite surprised. I flew SFO-MEX r/t in December and, aside from a catering issue, had a great flight both there and back.

    @Ben L. —> Yes, I too am surprised that WN doesn’t fly to MEX out of California.

    @chub —> I don’t think it was AS that cut ties to AM…with DL’s ownership stake, and their aggressive anti-AS stance, I’d be placing the blame at the feet of DL.

    @Markus —> I fly, even though I can cross the border for free. I don’t live in San Diego and can’t just walk to TIJ. But I agree with @J — flying SAN-Mex was a stupid decision.

    @CraigTPA —> Yes, I would imagine DL owns all the rights to Northwest.

    @Paul T. —> I agree with you to a certain extent. As a long time Virgin America elite, Alaska have done some things spectacularly well. However, since operating on a single ticket (i.e.: since VX formally ceased to exist), there seems to be an increasing number of missteps. As MVP Gold — heck, as a customer, period! — this has felt more like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and a function of one step forward, two steps back. Having had some contact with senior executives at AS, I’ve voiced some of this frustration to the “powers that be.” My takeaway from those conversations is that AS was a little overwhelmed by both the complexity of the merger (think “Marriwood”) and a definite desire to make it work…despite the hiccups and potholes along the way. (And those are painful, no doubt about it.) For myself, I’m willing to give them until 12/31/2019 — by which not only should all the “bugs” be worked out, but the experience should be “fun” again, like it was on VX. If not, well….

    @SH —> *IF* AS continues along its current slide, then I will — with regret — probably switch to DL, despite the fact that I hate their heavy-handed pressure tactics against AS. (Yeah, I know, “it’s business.”) I just can’t use points on Southwest to fly overseas, and jetBlue simply doesn’t have a strong enough flight schedule out of the West Coast.

    C’est la vie…

  23. I will miss the SAN – MEX route even though TIJ is relatively easy and cheap as others have said .. As a resident of downtown San Diego nothing beats the San Diego airport ! It felt like like private jet service on the Skywest operated equipment. I was happy to pay more for the better flight compared to a crammed 737 on a Mexican carrier with no mileage/ partner benefits .

  24. now it is too hard to get an award ticket from mexico city to Shanghai/Hong Kong because of Alaska cancelling from mexico city to US flights.

  25. Again?? I’m in Oaxaca now and just went online to buy a flight from CDMX to Seattle by way of LAX. So irritating! I take this flight several times a year and it’s always full. This might be the final nail in the Alaska coffin for me. After I figure out what to use all these miles on.

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