U.S. Airlines Converging on Suddenly Hot Mexico

Leading American airlines are stepping up to give Mexico the airlift it needs as tourism increases and in the wake of Mexicana Airlines folding this past summer.

Continental Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have all announced plans to launch a slew of new flights to Mexico from several important North American travel hubs. The flights come hot on the heels of Mexico Tourism's announcement of a 19.2 percent increase in international tourist arrivals via air to Mexico from January to August of this year.

The new flights are a welcome addition to already planned flights by AeroMexico, British Airways, US Airways, Frontier Airlines, Virgin America and China's Hainan Airlines.

From January to August of this year, the number of international tourists arriving in Mexico by air increased by 19.2 percent, in comparison to the same period last year and 6 percent in comparison to 2008, one of Mexico's strongest tourism years on record. From January to August 2010, Mexican airports received 7.1 million foreign visitors. The U.S. continues to be the main market source for travelers into Mexico. In the first eight months of 2010, 4.33 million American travelers arrived in Mexico, a 15.7 percent increase in respect to the same period in 2009 and a 1.9 percent increase over 2008.

Approximately 61 percent of international tourists to Mexico are Americans, according to Mexico's Tourism Secretariat (Sectur).

Flight Plans

In October, Continental announced its plans to launch a daily nonstop service between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Leon/Guanajuato, Mexico (BJX) beginning November 1, pending Mexican government approval. This new service will complement Continental's existing service to Leon/Guanajuato from Houston. In fact, no other carrier offers more departures from the U.S. to the Leon/Guanajuato airport. In addition, Continental Airlines has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for permission to launch weekly nonstop flights to Cancun from Austin and San Antonio in Texas and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina. Once approved, this service would begin on February 19, 2011. Currently, Continental Airlines serves 30 Mexican destinations, more than any other American airline. The airline presently serves Cancun 76 times weekly from its travel hubs in Houston, Newark and Cleveland.

In addition to the new flights planned by Continental, United Airlines is boosting service into Mexico City from hubs in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. United will launch a second daily flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City beginning October 15, and a third daily flight starting January 14, 2011. Starting November 4, United will up its current Saturday-only service from Chicago to Mexico City to twice-daily service and their daily service from San Francisco to Mexico City to twice-daily, as well. United will also begin offering once-daily service to Mexico City from Denver between December 16 and January 3, 2011, perfect for a holiday getaway. In regards to other Mexican destinations, United Airlines currently serves Cancun 31 times weekly from its hubs in Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles.

Rounding out the announcement of new flights is Delta Air Lines, who plans to launch new nonstop Saturday flights from Memphis, to Mexico City starting January 8, 2011, pending Mexican government approval. The short 3.5 hour flight will leave Memphis at 9:15 a.m. and arrive in Mexico City International Airport (Benito Juarez International Airport) at 12:40 p.m.

Return flights are scheduled to leave Mexico City at 1:42 p.m. and arrive in Memphis at 5 p.m. Mexico is currently the city of Memphis' second-largest trading partner, and the new flight will not only be a hit with tourists, but with business leaders seeking to strengthen ties to Mexico. This new flight will add to Delta Air Lines' already existing seasonal flights to the Mexican beach resort cities of Cancun and Cozumel.

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