Mexico's two major airlines, Mexicana de Aviacion and Aeromexico were publicly owned and dominated the Mexican air travel market for many years. Fares were exorbitant, so the majority of Mexicans and tourists traveled by bus. Since the privatization of these airlines, several Mexican discount airlines have entered the scene, creating competition and bringing airfares down.
In the past budget travelers didn't even consider traveling by air within Mexico, and they spent many long hours on buses. Bus service in Mexico can be excellent - with varied levels of service and good coverage throughout the country, but Mexico is big, and bus travel between destinations can take a very long time. So budget travelers can now rejoice that air travel in Mexico is now a viable option.
There are a few caveats. Travel aggregators often do not include Mexican discount airlines in their searches. So finding and booking flights can require quite a bit of research - you'll have to visit the Web Site of each airline, plug in the origin, destination and dates you would like to travel and compare prices. It is worth the effort, however, because you can find some great deals - and spending the time in front of your computer ahead of time can end up saving you a lot of travel time that you would otherwise spend sitting on the bus.
When searching for airfares with Mexican discount airlines, keep these points in mind:
- Spanish only: Web Sites of some airlines are in Spanish only. Look for a little US flag to switch to an English version if one is available.
- Prices in pesos: Don't be dismayed when you see a fare is $1500 - that's pesos not dollars. Ten pesos is roughly equal to one US dollar, so divide the price by ten to get a rough idea of what the fare will cost you.
- Taxes and fees not included: The original price listed generally does not include taxes and fees. You will see the total price after selecting your flight (but before entering your personal information). Taxes and fees can be astronomical - sometimes up to 40% of airfare.
- No paper tickets: The majority of Mexican discount airlines operate without tickets. Instead of receiving a paper ticket you get an online reservation code and itinerary to print out. At the ticket counter you give your reservation code and show your ID in order to receive your boarding pass.
- Alternate airports: Mexican discount airlines may fly out of alternate airports instead of main hubs - many fly in and out of Toluca (50 km from Mexico City) in order to avoid Mexico City's overcrowded Benito Juarez International Airport. A few airlines do offer shuttle service between airport and main destinations.
- Changes and cancellations: Most discount airlines allow changes to reservations before the flight, and change fees are reasonable. Check your airline for deadlines for changes. Cancellations are usually not allowed, nor is it permitted to change the name on the ticket.
- Baggage weight limits can be restrictive so be sure to check that you don't go over. If you do exceed the limits you can expect to pay extra fees.