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There are more travel options than ever in the skies over Mexico. But while the growth of low-cost and upstart airlines presents travelers with more choices, the experience of actually traveling can be markedly different, depending on which carrier you choose. A bit of research about features such as frequent-flyer benefits and add-on fees can be especially helpful when it comes time to book flights to or within Mexico.
Three domestic Mexican airlines — Aeromexico, Interjet and Volaris — accounted for about half of the capacity increases on international routes into Mexico in 2017, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. The organization reported more than 2 million new seats on direct flights in 2017, compared to the year before.
Here’s what to expect on Mexico’s largest airlines.
Aeromar In 2017, Colombia-based Avianca bought a 49-percent stake in Aeromar, which operates a flight of 16 ATR turboprop aircraft on a mostly domestic flight network (except for one route to McAllen, Texas). Avianca plans to grow Aeromar through an investment of some $100 million, so travelers may see the airline in more destinations soon. For now, one of the airline’s biggest selling points is its participation in United’s MileagePlus program.
Costs and Benefits: Passengers can check one bag and bring onboard one carry-on at no cost. Snacks and drinks on board are also free.
Aeromexico Mexico’s largest and oldest carrier operates 600-plus daily flights to more than 90 cities in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Asia. A founding member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, Aeromexico last year launched a joint cooperation agreement with Delta Air Lines, after Delta completed a cash tender offer to acquire 32 percent of Grupo Aeromexico.
Costs and Benefits: Economy class passengers on domestic flights and flights to and from the United States can check one bag for free; inflight snacks and drinks are also free.
Calafia Airlines This Los Cabos-based airline flies a fully domestic Mexican network with a mixed fleet of prop and small jet aircraft, ranging from the 13-passenger Cessna 208-B Caravan to 50-passenger Embraer 145 aircraft. In 2017, the company added routes linking Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, as well as La Paz and Monterrey.
Costs and Benefits: Passengers must pay for nonalcoholic beverages and snacks on board, but the first checked bag is free (if it’s within weight restrictions that vary based on aircraft type).
Interjet This Mexico City-based airline flies to 53 destinations in eight countries, including nine U.S. destinations, with an all-jet Airbus fleet.
Costs and Benefits: Inflight snacks and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are free. The airline allows two free carry-ons. Other benefits and fees are based on fare class; passengers booking a “Light” fare must pay $25 to check a bag, while the “Optima” and “Priority” fares include one free checked bag.
MayAir Based at Cancun International Airport, this carrier is a joint venture with Lomas Travel Group, a local destination management company. Flights depart from the tiny-but-modern Fixed Base Operations (private) terminal at Cancun’s airport, to five destinations around Mexico’s southeastern region, including Cozumel and Merida. Aircraft range from a five-passenger Cessna 206 to a 50-seat Fokker 50 aircraft.
Costs and Benefits: Every passenger can take one carry-on and check a bag at no charge.
TAR Aerolineas This carrier operates a fleet of 10 Embraer 145 jets, each with 50 seats, on an all-domestic network that extends from Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez in the north to Merida, Ciudad del Carmen, Villahermosa and Tuxtla Gutierrez in the southeast.
Costs and Benefits: Passengers can check one bag and bring two carry-on items onboard at no charge. TAR’s loyalty program, Star Pass, awards passengers — after 10 flights — with a coupon redeemable for the average price of all flights purchased.
Viva Aerobus With hubs in Monterrey, Guadalajara and Cancun, this low-cost carrier flies to all major Mexican destinations as well as to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Houston. The fleet is made up of 23 Airbus A320 aircraft.
Costs and Benefits: Passengers must pay extra for checking bags, in-flight food and drink and printing boarding passes in the airport — with fees that may vary depending on when and where you pay.
Volaris This airline flies to major Mexican destinations as well as Puerto Rico and various destinations in the U.S. and Central America. In November, the carrier announced plans to add 80 Airbus A320neo planes to its flight between 2022 and 2026. Volaris also recently announced that it will codeshare with Frontier Airlines.
Costs and Benefits: In November, Volaris introduced new guidelines for some fees, based on fare paid. The cheapest fare classes — V.Club and Clean Base Fare — include two free carry-ons but charge for checked bags. The so-called Regular Fare includes two carry-ons and one checked bag. All passengers pay for onboard snacks and drinks.