This was first rumored a few days ago, but is now official.
FAA downgrades Mexico safety rating to Category 2
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating from a Category 1 to a Category 2.
FAA inspectors conducted a review of Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC) between October 2020 and February 2021, and identified several areas of non-compliance with minimum safety standards.
A Category 2 rating means that the country’s laws and regulations lack the necessary requirements to oversee the country’s air carriers in accordance with minimal international safety standards, or that the civil aviation authority is lacking in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping, inspection procedures, or resolution of safety concerns.
This is the first time since 2010 that Mexico’s safety rating has been downgraded from a Category 1. The last time Mexico was downgraded, it lasted for about four months.
Thailand is another country with a Category 2 safety rating
How FAA safety ratings work
With the International Convention of Civil Aviation, every country is responsible for the oversight of its own air carriers. Of course once in a while there also need to be audits to ensure that regulators are doing their jobs correctly.
The FAA conducts the International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA). The assessment is intended to determine if the relevant civil aviation authorities provide oversight to carriers that are in line with international standards.
Note that just because a country’s safety rating is demoted doesn’t at all suggest the airlines from that country are unsafe. It just suggests there’s a lack of oversight from regulatory authorities.
If you ask me, there is a bit of irony to the FAA being responsible for determining whether other countries have the proper oversight, given the 737 MAX fiasco that lasted for a couple of years, where the FAA was in many ways using the honor system with Boeing.
This doesn’t in any way mean that Mexican airlines are unsafe
What are the implications of this?
Mexico being downgraded by the FAA would is going to be a major headache for Mexican airlines, as well as for the Delta and Aeromexico joint venture.
If a civil aviation authority meets standards, the FAA gives that authority a Category 1 rating. This means air carriers from that country:
- Can initiate or continue service to the United States in a normal manner
- Can take part in reciprocal codeshare agreements with carriers from the USA
If a civil aviation authority doesn’t meet standards, the FAA gives that authority a Category 2 rating. This means air carriers from that country:
- Cannot initiate new service to the United States
- Are restricted to current levels of any existing service to the USA while corrective actions are underway
- Can’t codeshare with air carriers from the USA
- If the airlines fly to the USA, they’ll be subjected to additional inspections
In other words, Mexican airlines are now restricted to current levels of service to the United States, and on top of that Aeromexico and Delta can no longer codeshare on flights. This is major, especially when you consider that Mexico is currently the largest outbound international market from the United States.
Among airlines from the USA, this impacts Delta the most
The FAA has downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating to a Category 2, following a review of the country’s aviation oversight program.
This means that Mexican airlines can’t add any more service to the United States, and also impacts the ability of carriers in the United States to codeshare with Mexican airlines. Something like this last happened over a decade ago, and lasted for about four months.
I’m curious to see how long it takes for Mexico to resolve this…