Mexico to cut flights at main airport after near miss on runway

MEXICO CITY, May 9 (Reuters) – A Mexican official overseeing an investigation into an incident in which two planes nearly crashed into a runway at the country’s main airport said on Monday operations at the overcrowded facility would be reduced by 25%.

Video of Saturday’s near miss at Mexico City International Airport showed one plane coming to land just above another waiting to take off on the same runway.

Deputy Transport Minister Rogelio Jimenez Pons expressed concern about a number of recent incidents related to air safety.

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“There is this instruction to reduce operations by 25% in 12 months. The airport has been saturated and in a terrible state for decades,” Jiminez Pons said in a media interview.

He said to implement the reduction, flights would be diverted to other airports, such as the newly built Felipe Angeles International Airport nearby.

He said the near-miss at one of Latin America’s busiest airports was most likely caused by an air traffic control error, noting that Mexico was short by around 250 controllers, meaning that they work longer, but that lives were not in danger.

“The pilots were able to figure it out. We never put people’s safety at risk. Yes, it was a scary situation, but the pilots’ defense was tested and thank God these people are prepared. .”

Video of the incident involving the two jets from low-cost Mexican airline Volaris (VOLARA.MX) surfaced online after an international pilots association cited “several” safety issues in the airspace of the capital. Read more

Volaris shares fell almost 8% on Monday. On Sunday, the carrier’s chief executive, Enrique Beltranena, said on Twitter that he had called for internal and external investigations.

“Thanks to the training of our pilots and their impeccable control of the processes, no passenger or crew member was in danger,” Beltranena said.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on authorities to “put the airspace in order” and said the director of navigation services in Mexican airspace (SENEAM), Victor Hernandez, had resigned.

Jose Alfredo Covarruvias, general secretary of the Mexican union of air traffic controllers, told Reuters the union had sent about 30 safety incident reports to the federal civil aviation agency.

“We need to see what factors led to this mistake, first and foremost to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Covarruvias, who also welcomed the investigation and Hernandez’s resignation. “If it happens again, it’s not an accident,” he added.

Senator Ricardo Monreal, a prominent member of the ruling MORENA party that opposed Lopez Obrador, called on the heads of Mexico’s transport and civil aviation authorities to testify before Congress.

He also called on lawmakers to address recent problems at the airport.

“Like thousands of people, I’ve experienced flight delays, but this week they got worse,” Monreal said on Twitter. “The legislature should act to understand the causes and support a solution.”

Felipe Angeles International Airport, defended by Lopez Obrador and built by the armed forces, officially opened in March.

It was intended to relieve the overcrowded Mexico City International Airport, but Reuters found that the airport was still under construction nearly a month after its inauguration and had few daily flights. Read more

In May 2021, the United States downgraded Mexico’s air safety rating, which prevents Mexican carriers from adding new American flights and limits the ability of airlines to enter into joint marketing agreements.

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Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle, Valentine Hilaire and Carolina Pulice; Written by Kylie Madry; Editing by Anthony Esposito, David Gregorio and Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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