Delta’s partnership with Aeromexico is threatened

The U.S. DOT wants to revoke approval because of a diplomatic dispute.

Since 2016, Delta Air Lines and Aerovias de Mexico — known as Aeromexico in the U.S. — have provided unparalleled access between the United States and Mexico to traveling consumers thanks to an innovative partnership.

With the approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Delta and Aeromexico operate a joint cooperation agreement that has enabled our airlines to serve more than 45 million passengers over the past seven years with affordable, efficient and convenient routes to and from each country.

What started as a collaboration to enhance connectivity between the United States and Mexico has had a greater impact over time. U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Raleigh, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, among others, now have daily direct flights to multiple destinations in Mexico, including key geo-political, industrial and tourism destinations, such as Mexico City, Guanajuato, Monterrey and Queretaro. These flights benefit consumers through increased market competition and choice, while supporting American and Mexican businesses and thousands of jobs.

But the partnership is under threat. In January, and without any warning, the Transportation Department tentatively proposed to revoke approval of this strategic and procompetitive partnership — not because of any service-related concerns with Delta or Aeromexico, but because of an unrelated diplomatic dispute regarding Mexico’s international aviation policy — a dispute over which neither of our airlines has any control.

The consequences of unwinding the partnership agreement are harmful and far-reaching for American and Mexican consumers, communities and businesses. If the Transportation Department moves forward, nearly two dozen flight routes are at significant risk of cancellation — five of those routes are direct to cities in Mexico from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Last year alone, more than 650,000 travelers flew direct to Mexico on flights from Atlanta made possible by the Delta-Aeromexico partnership. Altogether, this significant of a loss in routes would result in 1 million fewer travelers between the United States and Mexico each year. Consumers would be left with fewer choices for travel as market competition decreases and could ultimately pay higher ticket prices, with total benefits lost estimated at $800 million.

For American and Mexican business communities, lost connectivity would have significant economic consequences. Trade between the United States and Mexico reached a record $860 billion in 2023. Most notably, Mexico became the No. 1 trading partner of the United States, surpassing China for the first time in 20 years.

The improved transborder access created by the Delta-Aeromexico partnership has been an important driver of that economic success. That is why ending the agreement would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost gross domestic product for both countries, in addition to lost jobs.

Mexican and Mexican American travelers rely on the routes the Delta-Aeromexico partnership provides. With the large Hispanic population in the United States, of which the majority is of Mexican origin, these flights allow residents in each country to visit family and friends affordably and efficiently.

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta

Credit: handout

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Credit: handout

Aeromexico CEO Andrés Conesa

Credit: handout

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Credit: handout

According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, 12.5 million Mexicans traveled to the United States in 2022, representing 24 percent of total foreign arrivals. Annual tourism spending in the United States and Mexico could drop by $200 million and $160 million, respectively, if the agreement is dissolved.

It should be no surprise that many Americans agree that terminating the partnership is the wrong course of action considering the substantial consumer and economic benefits at risk.

In fact, a new poll found that, across party lines, 65 percent of U.S. voters oppose canceling this partnership, and more than 80 percent say putting thousands of jobs at risk would be harmful. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Mexican American voters oppose canceling the agreement, and more than 80 percent say the loss of flying options between the United States and Mexico would be harmful.

As the chief executives of Delta and Aeromexico, we recognize the importance of the diplomatic goals of both nations. But we also agree that punishing consumers and jeopardizing thousands of jobs in both nations is a punitive and counterproductive approach that will not produce a positive outcome for the Transportation Department. There is ample time for both governments to engage in further negotiations and make meaningful progress without harming the American and Mexican people.

A strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico is essential as our regional economic interdependence grows. Allowing Delta and Aeromexico to continue serving U.S. and Mexican consumers and businesses through improved and affordable air travel access will benefit both countries. The Transportation Department should swiftly reverse course and renew its approval of this strategic partnership.

Ed Bastian is the chief executive of Delta Air Lines. Andrés Conesa is the chief executive of Aeromexico.