If you haven’t noticed, I am really on a Mexico kick. I’ve been to Mexico City, Tijuana, and Guanajuato in the past 11 months! Today I’ll provide you with comparisons between the various Mexican airline companies so you can make an informed decision as you evaluate travel options.
Our southern neighbor is close, inexpensive, full of life and great food. Whether you are planning on visiting a coastal resort town, the bustling metropolis of Mexico City, or a historic colonial town like San Miguel de Allende, you can find flights on Mexican carriers to a much broader list of destinations than you will on US airlines flying south.
All of these companies fly out of US airports in addition to their strong network inside Latin America. Don’t be intimidated if they pop up when searching for routes, just because the brand is unfamiliar to you.
In terms of quality and comfort, AeroMexico tops the list by leaps and bounds. I would compare it just as good as my transatlantic flights I’ve taken on AirFrance or American Airlines.
The flight I took had comfortable, soft seats, interactive video screens and a wide variety of movies in several languages. The seats were wider than the standard sardine-can feeling I’ve become used to. I had a good amount of leg room, as well. Food and drink were included (Tijuana to Mexico City).
Alliance: AeroMexico is part of the [Delta] SkyTeam. They are on-again, off-again with my preferred airline, Alaska Air. I can’t remember if I was able to claim my Alaska miles or not, but I do remember I had to place a phone call about it. Their phone service was very polite, clear, and helpful.
Cost: AeroMexico is the priciest out of the four airlines I have reviewed, but with increased cost comes more comfort and amenities. If you’ve never flown on a foreign carrier, this will feel familiar and safe.
For quality and comfort, I would compare Volaris to Southwest Airlines or another budget brand with an eye on customer service. All flight attendants and gate agents were very helpful. The flight was comfortable at row 17, but cramped at row 21.
As for options, this is one of those airlines where everything is an upgrade. Included in my base fare was one checked bag (carry-on was extra) and one standard seat. Coffee, tea, drinks, snacks, and meals were all extra, but prices are low: 35 pesos (around two dollars) gets you a bag of chips or a soda. The extras aren’t bad, a few dollars here and there, but it can inflate the low-priced fare you got up front.
Alliance: Continuing the comparisons with Southwest, I was unable to find Volaris currently affiliated with any other airlines. In fact, they used be affiliated with Southwest for some time but that ended in 2013.
Cost: For people who hop down to Mexico regularly, this looks like the most popular option, followed closely by Interjet. They fly a lot of routes to a lot of destinations.
Interjet is very comparable to Volaris. As is the trend in the airline industry these days, the price starts low and upgrades can be purchased for anything from baggage, to legroom, to snacks, or carry-on baggage. Volaris gets points for staff and convenience (lots of flights per day) but Interjet’s planes seem newer so they get good marks in this area.
Alliance: Interjet is partnered with LATAM (South America), American, and Iberia (Spain). These are important strategic alliances for the Spanish-speaking world; If you frequently travel in these regions this is really important to keep in mind.
Cost: Interjet and Volaris are strong competitors so you may find either to be slightly lower on a given day. If logging miles on an alliance is important to you, that benefit may sway you to Interjet.
Oh, VivaAerobús. Last December when I went to Mexico City, I flew AeroMexico on the way down and VivaAerobús on the way back because the price could not be beat. However, one truly realizes what those extra dollars pay for when trapped on a small (noisy) plane in a hard chair for 4 hours.
Aerobús was started by RyanAir, the popular budget airline from the UK (but they are no longer owned by that company). Like other bargain airlines (Spirit, WOW, etc), everything is an up-charge on this airline, even your seat, if all of the “free” seats are checked in before you get your opportunity to do so. The in-flight snacks are more expensive than on Interjet and Volaris, but only by a few pesos.
Cost: Cost is literally the only reason to choose this carrier. If I was flying a very short flight, 2 hours or less, I would book VivaAerobús again. For medium-to-longer flights it is worth the price difference to fly any of the three above carriers.
Crossing and then flying
Here’s the key: leaving from Tijuana and flying to another Mexican city is considered a domestic flight, even if you are a US Citizen. It’s easy to find a US-based flight to Mexico, which is very convenient; however, as soon as a flight crosses international borders, there are fees assessed that can add up quickly. The fees shown in the picture here are on a San Diego – Cabo San Lucas flight, just for an example. This is why, for over a year, I have recommend crossing the border and flying out of TIJ if you live in Southern California. I’ve written twice about the Cross Border Xpress method of conveniently crossing without waiting in the notoriously long customs line.
I hope this is helpful for you as you plan your getaway to Mexico or Central America. It certainly has been a money-saver for my friends and I as we cross the southern border to begin our journeys farther out.
Please share your experience on these airlines in the comments to help future travelers!
Photo & Header graphic by Staci Jackson for The Voyageer.