Aeromexico this month started nonstop flights between Seattle and Mexico City, opening up easier Seattle access to destinations all over Mexico and Latin America. It also provides Aeromexico’s partner Delta an edge in its intense competition with Alaska Airlines.
In counterpoint to President Donald Trump’s negative rhetoric on Mexico and his ambition to build a wall at the southern U.S. border, Aeromexico this month started nonstop flights between Seattle and Mexico City.
The new route opens up easier access for Seattleites to destinations all over Mexico and farther south in Latin America.
It may serve business travelers particularly well. And because Aeromexico’s new route is part of a joint venture with Delta Air Lines, it provides the big U.S. major a sharp edge in its intense competition with Alaska Airlines out of Sea-Tac.
In Seattle this week to celebrate the launch of the new route, Anko van der Werff, Aeromexico’s Netherlands-born chief revenue officer, recalled attending a lunch last May with Gov. Jay Inslee aimed at enhancing ties with Mexico.
He conceded that earlier in the year, following Trump’s attempted travel ban, his speeches denouncing Mexican immigrants and the fall of the Mexican peso that resulted, “northbound traffic took a hit.”
But the peso has mostly recovered, he said, and so has air traffic.
“It’s been an interesting year,” van der Werff said. “The summer was completely back to normal.”
“Mexico is so underestimated,” he said, with many global powerhouse businesses doing well there, and is a country “intertwined” with the U.S.
“This relationship, culturally, economically and between people and families, cannot and will not be destroyed,” he said.
Delta joint venture
Aeromexico’s thrust into the Seattle market is a big boost for Delta, which will take half the profits from the route.
Delta owns a 49 percent stake in Aeromexico and was granted antitrust immunity in May to form a 50-50 joint venture. That means the two airlines now work closely to divide up between them a joint network of flights between the U.S. and Mexico.
Delta, for example, operates flights from its headquarters in Atlanta to Mexico City and Aeromexico doesn’t compete. Likewise, Delta won’t compete on the Seattle-Mexico City route.
At the end of the year, the two airlines add up the costs for all their flights between the U.S. and Mexico, calculate the profit overall, and split it 50:50.
The two also jointly operate an aircraft maintenance and repair facility in Mexico for narrowbody jets.
And though Aeromexico has long had a codeshare agreement with Alaska Airlines — allowing tickets to be booked on one airline though operated by the other — that ends now.
“Our partnership with Delta is exclusive,” said van der Werff.
Such market-splitting agreements have drawn some criticism from consumer groups, which have argued that passengers would get a better deal if Aeromexico and Delta competed on routes.
Some Delta critics, such as a U.S. lobbying group for the large Gulf carriers that Delta is trying to block from U.S. expansion, even characterize such arrangements as “outsourcing” U.S. flying to a foreign partner.
The arrangement definitely benefits the two airlines, yet van der Werff insists passengers benefit too. The close collaboration allows each airline to sell tickets for the other, to enable seamless connecting flights between the two, and to offer corporate accounts a package that includes a much enlarged network.
This may have particular appeal for business travelers.
Van der Werff said Aeromexico/Delta offer Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks and other large Seattle-based corporate travel accounts joint contracts that will provide faster access to many parts of central and south America.
While Seattle already has nonstop flights operated by Alaska Airlines to Mexican beach resorts such as Cancun and San José del Cabo, Mexico City can serve as a hub for connections to interior cities such as Querétaro or to cities further south such as Lima, Peru or Bogota, Colombia.
Aeromexico’s southbound red-eye flight gets into Mexico City — the largest city in North America with a population of about 9 million people — at 5:00 a.m., allowing early morning connections to destinations all over Mexico and beyond. The northbound flight leaves Mexico City in the afternoon, arriving at Sea-Tac International Airport early evening.
One local company, Boeing, has another reason to welcome Aeromexico’s expansion.
The airline is simplifying its fleet to three aircraft types: 96-seat Embraer E190 regional jets for short haul, thin routes, and for longer-haul flights an all-Boeing fleet of 737s and 787 Dreamliners.
Aeromexico has on order 60 new 737 MAXs, which will start delivery next year.
Though Mexico City is a hot and high airport that reduces aircraft performance, its long-range 787-8s can fly nonstop to Europe as well as to Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai, making it is the only Latin American carrier with nonstop service to Asia.
The airline’s 20-strong Dreamliner fleet also includes a dozen larger 787-9s.
“We’re very happy with the aircraft,” van der Werff said, adding that the airline may soon take a few more from lessors.