Mexican president: FAA safety downgrade meant to benefit US carriers

Mexican president: FAA safety downgrade meant to benefit US carriers
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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday said his country's aviation follows all international norms and standards and that an American threat to downgrade Mexico's air safety designation is intended to benefit U.S. air carriers. 

"We feel that this decision should not be carried out because we're up to date. It can be proven that there are no pending issues. However, there are interests. Because those who benefit from a move like this are airlines from the United States," said López Obrador at his daily press conference.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week announced it is looking to downgrade Mexico's air safety rating, a move that would limit Mexican airlines' ability to launch new routes to the United States, and limit Mexican and U.S. airlines ability to launch joint marketing agreements.

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Air travel to Mexico accounted for about half of all U.S. overseas travel in 2020, according to data compiled by the Department of Commerce. 

The potential downgrade would mean the FAA has determined Mexico's air safety does not meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards for safe operation.

López Obrador first denied the allegation, then downplayed its effects on the Mexican airline industry and accused the United States of staging the downgrade to benefit its own airlines.

"Mexican airlines could be hurt. We are following this issue. In case this decision is taken, national airlines would not be affected because they are more dedicated to internal transportation and fortunately there's a recovery in the number of flights," said López Obrador.

"It's not a delicate issue. I see a purpose of helping American air carriers with a measure of this sort. In the end there won't be a lack of airplanes because air transport is growing very much, the economy is recovering and aviation is growing," he added. 

López Obrador has been sharply critical of the United States in recent weeks, ahead of important midterm elections in Mexico.

Vice President Harris is due to visit Mexico on June 7, a day after the elections.