Mexico’s Volaris aims to lure bus travelers with help from new airports
By Kylie Madry
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican discount airline Volaris plans to lure lower income travelers who have traditionally stuck to bus travel due to cost and convenience, using a wider variety of airports near Mexico City as a key incentive.
The planned marketing campaign by Mexico’s largest airline aims to show travelers how close they are to airports in the Mexico City metropolitan area, part of a “bus-switching” strategy to get them out of bus seats and into airplanes, Holger Blankenstein, executive vice president of Volaris, told Reuters.
The campaign is a reminder of the predominance of long-distance bus transport in Latin America, an industry that often competes with airlines and has also spawned a handful of them as in VivaAerobus, co-founded by bus group IAMSA.
For Volaris it is also an attempt to make the most of a newly opened airport outside Mexico City heralded by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but which is so far mostly empty.
The Felipe Angeles International Airport (AIFA), opened in March, was built to alleviate pressure on Mexico City International Airport (AICM), the long-standing hub for the metropolitan area of 21 million.
However, the new airport, built on the site of an existing military air base some 28 miles (45 km) north of the AICM and lacking in transport options, only hosts a handful of flights a day.
Mexico’s government announced in May it would begin moving flights to the AIFA following a series of incidents, including a near-crash caught on video, at the city’s established international airport.
“If you look at the captive audience … 5 million people live closer to the AIFA than to the AICM,” Blankenstein said.
Residents beyond Mexico City’s official boundaries, where the new airport is located, tend to earn less than residents of the metropolis, which has the country’s highest average income, according to the country’s statistics agency. Mexico state is home to 15% of Mexico’s poorest citizens.
Many of those living near the AIFA have also either rarely or never flown, instead opting for bus trips, several airline executives told Reuters.
Around 100 million passengers take long-distance buses a year, double the current air market, Blankenstein said.
“(In Mexico), once you’ve taken a flight for the first time in your life, you’re part of the middle class,” he said.
(Reporting by Kylie Madry; Editing by Christian Plumb and David Evans)