Mexico City concerns: Air Freight Shift Apprehension & Challenges


The impact of freighter aircraft no longer landing at Mexico City may present concerns for manufacturers.

From July 2023, full-freighter services operating into Benito Juarez Airport (MEX) will be required to move operations to Felipe Angeles (NLU), some 50 kilometres outside the city. NLU has been designed to handle 2M tonnes of cargo annually, a substantial increase from MEX’s 570k tonnes in 2021. However, switching from Mexico’s primary hub for domestic and international freight is not without risks.

Although freighters account for only 4% of slots at MEX, with 80% occurring at night when congestion is not an issue, moving freighters out of MEX was driven by escalating congestion at the gateway. There are concerns that NLU’s theoretical capacity is not met by its current capabilities, notably lacking a more comprehensive logistics network ahead of the change.

As a result, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged Mexican authorities to create an official transition plan for migrating cargo operations to avoid delays, disruptions, and negative impacts on the air freight industry. This could prove highly detrimental to OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, with Mexico the largest export market for US automotive parts and the world’s fourth-largest producer of automotive production materials.

Already there is discussion around issues with Customs and hazardous shipments, with unclear internal transfer rules. Equally, staffing concerns at NLU are seeing some operators temporarily transfer staff by bus daily. Considering that 62% of cargo arrives at MEX on freighter aircraft, the move’s impact will significantly impact Mexico’s overall air cargo industry. Currently, the air transport industry, including airlines and its supply chain, supports $24.1M of Mexico’s GDP, with any disruptions sure to have knock-on effects around the globe.

This matter is somewhat complicated for combined passenger and cargo carriers. Cathay Cargo appears ready for the switch and moving to split operations, while Lufthansa Cargo, KLM, and others already operate dedicated cargo handling facilities at MEX. They are exploring the required infrastructure, equipment, handling procedures, and certifications.

As MEX has long been an essential hub for vital components and materials for the automotive supply chain, any disruption or delay could significantly impact the ability to provide Just-In-Time deliveries, leading to costly line stoppages.

Working with a dedicated emergency logistics partner can make navigating such disruptions simpler and faster, with contingencies prepared ahead of time and a pre-established network of local and international carriers. By providing expert guidance, swift decision-making, and alternative routing options, such partners help ensure the smooth flow of goods to OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers.

If you are concerned about the MEX to NLU transfer or want to learn more, please get in touch with our team:

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