Cargo Airlines Relocate to Smaller Airport Near Mexico City

DALLAS — Several cargo airlines have started operating at an alternative airport outside Mexico City due to the Mexican government’s new ban on freighter aircraft using Mexico City International Airport (MEX), the country’s main international hub.

Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador made the decision to ban cargo jets at MEX in February with the objective of relieving congestion at the airport. This policy change has had substantial effects on the cargo industry, causing a significant impact on its operations and logistics.

Carriers are currently facing more difficulties because shipments are being divided between two places. Industries like automotive, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals use Mexico City for importing and exporting goods.

As reported by, the forced relocation to Felipe Angeles International Airport (NLU), a former military airfield about 31 miles away from the capital that opened for commercial operations in 2022, involves securing new warehouse space, uprooting workers or finding new ones, transferring equipment, and providing training, which has resulted in added costs.

The Mexican government gave all-cargo airlines until July 7 to move out of MEX, but the deadline was pushed back to September 1.

NLU. Photo: Tlamichin – Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0

From Texcoco to Felipe Angeles

NLU is the second civilian airport serving the Mexico City metropolitan area. The airport was constructed as an alternative to the scrapped Texcoco International Airport.

Texcoco’s purpose was to alleviate the congestion in the city’s airspace and offer a cost-effective solution. However, when Obrador assumed the presidency, he pledged to terminate the development of what he deemed an excessively extravagant and corrupt airport. Instead, he proposed the remodeling of the military base of Santa Lucía, now NLU.

In the first quarter of 2023, the Mexican publication El Financiero mentioned that NLU performed around 14,500 operations in a span of one year. However, MEX surpassed NLU’s yearly count in just 12 days.

“We welcome the B747-8F from Cathay Pacific Cargo to Felipe Angeles International Airport. We appreciate the trust to commence air operations from this airport,” tweeted NLU on July 2.

Industry Comments

Freightwaves contacted Glyn Hughes, director general of The International Air Cargo Association, who said, “Considering that 62% of cargo arrives into Mexico City on freighter aircraft the impact will be quite significant…Mexico City plays a key role in connecting the West Coast of the U.S. and Latin America, particularly with passenger operations, and it will be crucial to keep that particular flow of traffic moving.” 

“Freight forwarders need to register at the new airport. If they don’t register they cannot access the airport. That’s going to be the biggest stumbling block every airline has to deal with. If they don’t register, then they have to pick up and tender freight in MEX,” Fred Ruggiero, Cathay Pacific’s (CX) vice president of cargo for the Americas, said in an interview during an air cargo conference here last month.

During a phone interview with the cargo news outlet, Paul Doell, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Air Carrier Association, raised concerns about Mexico’s violation of air service agreements. He expressed worry that this could set a precedent for other countries to adopt policies that unfairly obstruct foreign airlines.

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Featured image: NLU


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