FAA Returns Mexico to Highest Safety Category

After two years of close collaboration with Mexico, the FAA has upgraded the country's safety rating, restoring it to Category 1.



September 14, 2023

DALLAS — After two years of close collaboration and efforts to address safety issues, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has upgraded Mexico's safety rating, restoring it to Category 1, which represents the highest level of safety standards.

This decision comes as a result of the FAA's downgrade of Mexico to Category 2 in May 2021, following investigations that revealed Mexico did not meet the safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). At the time, the FAA had identified 12 problems with Mexico's air safety.

In response to the downgrade, Mexico's Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC) worked closely with the FAA to correct the safety discrepancies that resulted in the downgrade. Additionally, Mexico's Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transport (SICT), the Congress of the Union, and other prominent stakeholders in the country's airline industry joined forces to carry out collaborative measures to comply with ICAO's safety standards.

As a result, several improvements were made to Mexico's aviation safety standards to regain its Category 1 rating from the FAA. Among the measures taken to recover the top rating, the government improved inspections of aircraft and medical screenings of pilots. Other issues found in 2021 include the aviation regulator's technical expertise and record-keeping.


The IASA Program

The Category ranking system is an integral part of the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, which involves thorough investigations of the Civil Aviation Authorities of countries with direct flights to the US or codesharing agreements with US-based airlines.

The primary objective of this program is to ensure that every country adheres to international safety standards. When a country fully complies, it is designated as Category 1, enabling airlines to introduce new services between that country and the US, while US airlines can establish codeshare agreements within the country.

However, during the two-year period starting in 2021, when Mexico was categorized as Category 2, Mexican airlines were unable to launch new services to the US, and flight frequencies had to remain unchanged. Additionally, these flights were subject to heightened surveillance by the FAA.

To address the safety issues that led to the downgrade, the FAA provided expertise and resources through technical assistance agreements to Mexico's Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil (AFAC). Over the past two years, the FAA has dispatched a team of aviation safety experts on multiple occasions to support these efforts.

With Mexico's successful resolution of the identified safety issues and subsequent upgrade in the IASA category, the market between the US and Mexico is poised to resume expansion.

Featured image: N967AM Boeing 787-8 B788 AeroMexico AMS EHAM. Photo: Stephen Furst/Airways