Passengers missed connections this week alone as a result of thieves cutting the fiber optic cables entering the airport in Mexico City, forcing the immigration authorities to go back to utilizing cumbersome paper forms.
A little over a month ago, the Transportation Department’s computer systems were hacked, forcing aviation and transportation officials to postpone medical, physical, and license renewal exams until 2023.
Things only got worse after a close call between two aircraft on May 7 at the airport in Mexico City. One of the airport’s main terminals is sinking, and emergency work is needed to shore it up, according to the authorities.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s answer has been to propose allowing foreign airlines to fly domestic routes. But the safety downgrade the FAA dropped Mexico from Category 1, which most countries have, to the lower Category 2 in 2021 prevents Mexican airlines from opening new routes to the United States.
Thus, Mexico’s struggling airlines face competition in their home market, with no access to new international routes. Experts say all of it looks like a disaster for domestic aviation, a sector López Obrador had placed special emphasis on developing.
“It is not very encouraging for investment or the prospect of recovering Category 1 in the short or medium term,” aviation legal expert Rodrigo Soto-Morales wrote in the trade journal a21, referring to the internet outage and hacking.
“What we do know is that we are stalled,” Soto-Morales said in an interview, referring to the process of recovering a top safety rating.
Authorities said the Mexico City airport internet cables were cut by thieves who mistakenly thought the fiber optic cables were saleable copper. They stressed it happened outside airport property but, in fact, it was a cable conduit that leads directly into the airport from less than a mile away.
Rogelio Rodriguez Garduño, an aviation expert who teaches aeronautical law at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said the events reflect a decades long decay in Mexico’s aviation regulation. Mexico, unlike most countries, doesn’t have an independent aviation agency.
Over the past year, there were at least 17 incidents of ground-proximity warning system alerts for planes approaching the Mexico City airport. The International Air Transport Association, which represents 290 airlines, wrote to the Mexican Airspace Navigation Services expressing concern about the close calls.
“Mexico needs an autonomous agency with legal standing that guarantees independence,” Rodriguez Garduño said.