During the weekend, Mexico’s Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR) formally received the country’s largest and most important airport, Mexico City International Airport (MEX). On October 7, the presidential agreement entered into lieu by which SEMAR will now administer MEX, in the latest step of an ongoing militarization process inside the country’s aviation industry.
SEMAR now administrates MEX
October 7 marks the beginning of a new era for Mexico’s largest airport (which had 52 million passengers overall in 2022). The country’s navy has gained control of MEX after a process that began in February 2022, when, as part of the Comprehensive Airport Security Strategy, the government deployed 1,500 naval personnel to the airport facilities to ensure user safety and tackle criminal activities that included drug smuggling.
In July 2022, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president, appointed a retired naval officer as the airport’s director general. The objective was to “strengthen and enhance the airport’s security and organization strategy, with specific instructions to improve service and revamp the management system, transferring all powers and responsibilities to the Secretary of the Navy,” said the airport in a statement.
?? Aeropuerto Internacional Ciudad de México ??
? Secretaria de Marina ?
— @AICM_mx (@AICM_mx) October 7, 2023
A year later, in August 2023, the president issued an agreement to place MEX under SEMAR’s watch, thus delinking the airport from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation watch.
Other changes at MEX
In the last year, Mexico City International has undergone some profound changes that have impacted the overall operation of the hub.
In 2022, the government issued a decree to reduce the number of hourly slots at MEX, going from 61 per hour to 52. This was the first measure introduced to address MEX’s saturation problems –both in the air, on the ground, and in the two terminals composing the airport. Nonetheless, the measure was ineffective, as MEX had 52 million passengers, narrowly missing out on pre-pandemic traffic levels.
This year, the Mexican government forced the relocation of all cargo flights out of MEX. They had to reposition to the newer Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU). The measure was completed in September with the likes of DHL, Ethiopian Cargo, LATAM Cargo, and more carriers moving out of MEX.
Finally, the Mexican government announced a further reduction in the number of hourly slots. This reduction will take down the number of operations from 52 to 43 beginning in January next year, taking advantage of the low season. The airline industry –including IATA and ALTA– has opposed this latest measure, urging the government to find a different solution jointly with the industry. These measures have angered US authorities, prompting them to temporarily pause the review of Viva Aerobus and Allegiant’s Joint Venture Agreement proposal.
Daniel Martínez Garbuno is a Mexican journalist. He has specialized in the air industry working mainly for A21, a Mexican media outlet focused entirely on the aviation world. He has also published on other sites like Simple Flying, Roads & Kingdoms, Proceso, El Economista, Buzos de la Noticia, Contenido, and Notimex.