Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson) and Aeroméxico (AM, México City International) have warned the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that if the antitrust immunity grant (ATI) for their joint cooperation agreement (JCA) is effectively terminated on October 26, 2024, it would lead to the cancellation or capacity reduction of 23 non-stop frequencies on 21 routes between the United States and Mexico, among other impacts.

In the airlines' objection to the DOT’s tentative decision to dismiss their pending application to renew their ATI, the carriers said these 23 at-risk frequencies account for approximately 1.8 million round-trip transborder seats annually. Some of these routes would only see a reduction in capacity, but a total of 16 are at risk of being cancelled, including:

The routes from Atlanta to Querétaro and from Detroit to León/Guanajuato were announced, but have not been launched yet.

Additionally, Delta identified a further ten daily frequencies on seven routes that would be a risk of downgauging, reducing the average seats available by 44 per departure and eliminating approximately 160,000 transborder seats annually. These routes are:

  • Atlanta-Guadalajara: downgauge from an B737-900 to an A319-100;
  • Atlanta-Mexico City: downgauge from B737-800 to an A319-100;
  • Atlanta-Mexico City: downgauge from B757 to a B737-800;
  • Atlanta-Monterrey: downgauge from B737-800 to A319-100;
  • Detroit-Mexico City: downgauge from B757 to A319;
  • New York JFK-Mexico City: downgauge from B757 to A319; and
  • Los Angeles-Mexico City: downgauge from B757 to A319.

They also argued the ending of their JCA would punish the communities they serve by approximately USD834 million per year in increased fares, erode competition in the transborder US-Mexico market, and would not have the desired impact of targeting the Mexican government and its unilateral measures, which violate the US-Mexico fully liberalised air transportation agreement.

The DOT tentatively dismissed the renewal of Delta and Aeromexico’s JCA antitrust immunity due to actions taken by the Mexican government including forcefully relocating all cargo flights out of MEX to México City Felipe Angeles, and capacity reductions at MEX over the last three IATA traffic seasons. Similarly, the DOT suspended VivaAerobus and Allegiant Air’s application for an ATI on July 31, 2023.

Delta and Aeromexico said punishing the two private carriers based on the Mexican government's actions is “rash, counterproductive, discriminatory, and unprecedented.” Instead, they urged the DOT to invoke Part 213 procedures by imposing schedule filing requirements on all Mexican airlines serving the United States and restrict them, if necessary, as well as employing the remedial tools available under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practice Act.

Aeromexico’s pilot union (ASPA) said in a separate filing that unwinding the ATI would put at risk jobs as well as labour conditions for employees at both carriers.

Meanwhile, Viva Aerobus and Allegiant have requested the DOT to be equally considered in case it decides to set aside or suspend the dismissal of Aeromexico and Delta’s ATI. If this is the case, they asked the DOT to “simultaneously reinstitute the procedural schedule for the Department’s review of the Allegiant-Viva ATI application.”

They argued that failing to do so “would yield a similarly anticompetitive result” because Allegiant and Viva’s alliance cannot be launched without an ATI.

In contrast, American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) agreed with the DOT’s decision to terminate the ATI saying there is no implementation of a fully liberalised air transport agreement between Mexico and the United States and that, in fact, the situation has worsened over time.