US Carriers Dominate 99% Of The Market Between the United States And Cancún

Nine US carriers, including United Airlines, American Airlines, Spirit, JetBlue and Delta Air Lines, dominate 99% of commercial flight capacity between the United States and Cancun International Airport, the number one international destination for US travellers. How did it happen? We’ll take a look.

American hegemony

In recent years, Cancun has become the number one tourist destination for American travelers when traveling abroad.

Direct connectivity, amazing beaches and resorts, and proximity to the United States are some of the attractive attributes that have made Cancun a top destination on the wish list of many American citizens.

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Although it is an international destination and Mexico has several carriers with a strong US presence (such as Aeromexico, Volaris and Viva Aerobus), the US market in Cancun is heavily dominated by US carriers .

Using the data provided by Cirium, we can see how unbalanced the market is between US and Mexican carriers.

In June, there are approximately 831 weekly flights between the United States and Cancún. Of this total, 829 are operated by US carriers, giving them a market share of 99.7%. The only two flights operated by a Mexican carrier are served by Viva Aerobus on Sundays, serving Nashville and Cincinnati.


United Airlines and American Airlines lead the number of weekly flights to Cancun. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

United Airlines leads the way

Nine American airlines operate scheduled commercial flights between the United States and Cancun. These airlines are American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

United Airlines leads the way in terms of capacity, offering 165 weekly flights, according to Cirium. Close behind is American Airlines, with 164 weekly flights.

In terms of cities of origin, Dallas Fort Worth has the most weekly flights to Cancun, with 94. Houston comes second with 66, followed by Chicago O’Hare with 49 and Atlanta with 48. Five US cities only have one flight a week to Cancún, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Columbus.

Viva Aerobus is the only Mexican carrier to operate flights from Cancun to the United States. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martinez via @gquimar

Why are there almost no Mexican airlines in this market?

Flying to Cancun should be very profitable, right? Each week there are approximately 119 daily flights from the United States to Cancun, peaking on Fridays when there are 142 services.

Yet Mexican airlines have been completely unable to enter this market, which is heavily dominated by American brands. Recently Viva Aerobus explained why this happened.

In December 2021, Viva Aerobus and Allegiant Air announced their intention to launch a commercial alliance agreement. While revealing why this partnership would be good for the market, Viva Aerobus embarked on an in-depth analysis of why it has failed to operate direct flights to the United States from certain markets like Cancún.

The ultra-low-cost Mexican carrier said:

“Viva has struggled to expand its presence in the US market or attract US-based leisure passengers to its service to Mexican resort destinations. Viva entered the Houston-Cancún, Austin-Cancún and Austin-Port of Vallarta city ​​pairs, but found it lacked the necessary brand awareness in the United States as well as the immediate marketability to attract leisure travelers from the United States; as a result, Viva had no choice but to terminate the service.

When a Mexican carrier launched a route to the United States from a leisure destination such as Cancún, those routes have, on average, only been in service for one to two years. In contrast, older US carriers have an enduring presence on similar routes between the US and Mexico, operating continuously for years or even permanently.

Finally, even if Mexican carriers were interested in launching flights from Cancún to the United States, they are currently unable to do so. Mexico is still downgraded to Category 2 by the Federal Aviation Administration, meaning Mexican carriers cannot launch new routes to that country.

What steps do you think Mexican carriers should take to improve their presence in this market? Let us know in the comments below.

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