MRO capacity must expand in Mexico

Mexico’s air transport sector has seen passenger numbers grow from 963,000 in 1992 to 2.5 million in 2013, according to a report from the Centre for Citizens and Consumers.

This growth in passenger numbers has, however, been accompanied by a dramatic decline in airline personnel with just 3,844 in the industry last year compared with 20,756 workers in 1995, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. 

Employment figures took a major hit back in 2010 when the country’s oldest carrier Mexicana filed for bankruptcy.

Mexicana’s collapse opened up spare MRO capacity in the country. The airline’s MRO division serviced its 115 aircraft, as well as providing maintenance services to LATAM and Sky Airline. 

The MRO is still operating, servicing A320s, A318s, A319s, A310s, A321s and A330s, and once the remaining bankruptcy wrangles are sorted it will be able to invest more resources in new tools and equipment.

Airbus aircraft are proving to be popular for the Mexican domestic market, but there needs to be greater infrastructure to service the growing fleets. 

Interjet, Vivaaerobus and Volaris are Mexico’s low-cost carriers (LCCs). All are growing fast, and all use Airbus aircraft. LCCs rarely carry out MRO work in-house, and so there is increased demand for independent Mexican shops. 

Delta Air Lines and AeroMexico run a joint MRO, but it doesn’t have the capacity to service aircraft from outside the airlines yet. In addition, the shop only supports Boeing and Embraer aircraft.

The Mexican government, meanwhile, is making serious efforts to upgrade the country’s aviation infrastructure. President Peña Nieto intends to start seven airport projects during his six-year administration. 

An important objective will be to upgrade Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport. In 1990, the airport served 12 million passengers, but in 2013 that number had grown to more than 31 million. 

Terminal 2 was refurbished in 2007, but this proved insufficient to the city’s needs. A 5,000 hectare Terminal 3 is planned to bring the airport’s capacity to 40 million passengers per year. This will cost $5bn and construction should start in late 2014 or early 2015. 

Mexico is already an airport-heavy country with 1,714 airports dotted about the country – the third largest number in the world. The task ahead will be to make sure that these smaller airports are updated to serve national capacity. 

In the MRO sector the government has provided support for a new aerospace manufacturing facility in Queretaro, north of Mexico City. Bombardier, Snecma, Meggitt, Messier-Dowty and Learjet already have units at the site, and Messier-Dowty services Airbus aircraft, particularly A330 and A320 landing gears. This is good news for the growing Airbus fleets.

If Mexico doesn’t develop greater MRO capacity soon the country’s airlines may have to look to providers like Lufthansa Technik’s Puerto Rico operation or Aeroman in El Salvador.

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