This business aviation blog post is one of a three part series on operations to Mexican resort destinations.
This is a post by author Jorge Alva and Jana Lopez. Jorge and Jana are based at Universal Aviation Mexico, which has an FBO facility in Toluca and aircraft ground handling facilities in Cancun, Los Cabos, and Cozumel. Jorge and Jana are experts on business aircraft operations in Mexico and can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected]
High season for general aviation (GA) operations to Mexican Resort Destinations is mid-November through the end of April. While airport infrastructure and ground handling support are of high standards at these destinations there are considerations to be mindful of, particularly in terms of permits.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Popular airports
Top tourism destinations in Mexico include Cancun (MMUN), Puerto Vallarta (MMPR), Los Cabos (MMSD), Cabo San Lucas (MMSL) and La Paz (MMLP). Other popular destinations, in the Lake Chapala area, include Guadalajara (MMGL) and Queretaro (MMQT). Toluca (MMTO) is used occasionally for non-business operations to Mexico City and some operators still travel to Acapulco (MMAA) for tourism purposes. All these locations are airports of entry (AOE) and, with the exception of MMSL, MMSD, and MMLP operate 24 hours.
2. Ground handling and support services
Fixed base operators (FBOs) are available at all of the above locations along with fuel and full GA support. Ground support equipment, including tow bars, are usually available for all common models of business aircraft.
3. Parking availability
There are seldom issues these days in terms of GA parking availability or length of stay at popular Mexican resort destinations. Years ago MMSD would fill up from time to time but GA parking areas have been expanded at both MMSD and MMSL, with overnight and long term parking no longer an issue.
4. Permit requirements
Private non-revenue operators may obtain one shot permits from the airport commandant on arrival in Mexico. Note that if a private operator applies for a multiple entry permit, rather than a one-shot permit, this will be valid for up to six months or until December 31, whichever comes first. This permit restricts you to the pilots listed on the permit and becomes invalid if you need to use a pilot not listed on the permit. It’s best to list any pilot you are likely to use on your multi-entry permit and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) normally allows this. However, charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators must provide at least three business days lead time to request permits from CAA. A charter operator may apply for up to five one-shot permits before having to apply for a blanket charter permit.
5. Permit documentation
Upon arrival in Mexico private non-revenue operators must provide certificates of airworthiness and registration, insurance
specifically including Mexican territory, pilot licenses and medicals. Permits are valid for stays of up to six months. Charter operators need to supply the same documentation but the Mexican insurance policy must specify ‘commercial.’
6. Condition of runways, taxiways and ramp areas
At the above locations runway, taxiway and ramp conditions are good with no major construction projects underway or planned over the short term. The exception is MMGL where the airport authority is extending the common ramp area and building a new cargo terminal.
7. Tech stops
There are many good tech stops to consider in Mexico as well as some to avoid. We recommend MMQT and MMAA as services are quick, congestion is usually minimal and quick turns are possible in as little as 45 minutes. Operators should avoid tech stops at MMTO as you’ll need to clear customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) on both arrival and departure at this location and be required to reposition for fuel uplift. A tech stop at MMTO can be a highly complex and slow procedure with turns times well over an hour. Additionally, the high altitude (8,466 feet elevation) of this airport impacts aircraft performance and range.
8. Cost of operations
Mexico is a reasonably priced operating environment compared to Europe or Asia but generally more expensive than the U.S., Canada or most of South America. One reason for this is that many airports have fewer resources and less GA traffic than other countries. In some cases there’s only one FBO on the field, limiting available options.
9. Additional Reading: Mexico Resort Destinations
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
- Part 1 – airports and permits
- Part 2 – aviation fuel, in-flight catering, and cabotage
- Part 3 – passports, visas, customs and immigration
While private operations to Mexico are straight-forward and not very restrictive it’s a different case if you’re flying charter. Charter operators need to obtain blanket permits, once they’ve used up the five available one-shot permits. Also, be aware of cost differences compared to other locations in the region.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers aviation fuel, in-flight catering, and security when traveling to Mexico.