Airline concerns intensify as cargo shift from MEX to AIFA looms

Source: The Loadstar
Date: 2nd May 2023

Carriers operating a mix of air cargo and passenger services into Mexico City want more support to stave off supply chain collapse as a freighter ban draws closer.

In December full-freighter services from Benito Juarez Airport (MEX) had to move to Felipe Angeles (AIFA) within 107 business days, but as these efforts continue, questions are mounting over the capabilities of AIFA and the wider logistics network to facilitate this.

The International Air Cargo Association (Tiaca) director general told The Loadstar: “We understand AIFA’s warehouse facilities are modern and well-equipped, but staffing is an issue, with some operators prepared to transfer staff by bus each day to ensure adequate coverage – although this will be transitional until the local staff is employed.

“Carriers will have to decide if they want to move the entire operation, passengers as well as cargo, to the new airport. This would impact interlining and, considering that 62% of cargo arrives at MEX on freighter aircraft, the impact will be quite significant.”

Cathay Cargo appears among the more ready for the switch, with the country manager stating it has plans in place for split operations.

He said cargo from across South America arriving at MEX in the bellies of passenger services would be trucked between the two gateways.”

Noting it may sound like a lengthy process, he said it was comparable to the present practice, pointing to waits on inbound and outbound flights, which can be up to 12 hours.

Among other carriers facing up to the change is Lufthansa Cargo, which, like KLM, operates its own dedicated cargo handling facility at MEX.

The German flag carrier operates six freighter services a week to MEX alongside daily passenger services from Frankfurt and plans to resume passenger services from Munich too, both of which offer substantive belly-hold capacity.

A spokesperson said: “Preparations are still ongoing and potential effects deriving from the new set-up of two international airports in Mexico City are still being evaluated.

“We’re sharing requirements in working groups, for example, on necessary building infrastructure, equipment needed for importing and exporting, handling procedures and certifications.”

Although some have suggested airlines could transfer their entire activities to AIFA, the passenger side of affected carriers appear lukewarm over this, at best. And for Lufthansa such a shift would be unviable, it said, with about 35% of its passengers landing at MEX transferring onto connecting flights.

This is not against AIFA, it is a very good airport, referring to the faster taxi-ing and take-off times it offered compared with “maxed-out and chronically congested MEX.

The decision to move freighters out of MEX was driven by escalating congestion at the gateway, but industry executives have questioned the strategy, saying freighters account for just 4% of the slots, with 80% occurring at night when congestion is not an issue.

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