Mexico's domestic market contracted by 11% last year as the combination of the H1N1 virus and the economic downturn had a devastating impact on traffic figures.

Data released this week by Mexico's DGAC show that the country's airlines ended 2009 with 24.6 million passengers carried in scheduled domestic operations. This represents an 11% drop compared to the 27.7 million passengers carried in scheduled domestic operations in 2008.

For every month in 2009 traffic was down on a year-over-year basis, including an 8% drop in December from 2.3 to 2.1 million passengers. By far the biggest decline was recorded in May, during the height of the H1N1 virus, when only 1.6 million passengers were carried compared to 2.5 million the previous year.

DGAC data show Grupo Aeromexico carrying a market leading 34% of Mexico's domestic passengers last year with rival Grupo Mexicana capturing 29% of the market. The country's two biggest low-cost carriers, Interjet and Volaris, each captured 13% of the domestic market.

Smaller players include low-cost carrier VivaAerobus with 6% market share, leisure carrier Magnicharters with 3% of the market and regional carrier Aeromar with 2% market share.

Mexican carriers also recorded a 7% drop in scheduled international traffic in 2009 from 7.5 million to 7 million passengers. Grupo Mexicana captured 66% of this market, followed by Group Aeromexico with 31%. Volaris, which only launched international services in mid 2009, has already captured 3% of the international market.

Foreign carriers serving Mexico were even more impacted by the unfavourable market conditions, recording a 14% drop from 18.3 million passengers in 2008 to 15.8 million passengers in 2009.

The newly released DGAC data also show traffic declines for all of Mexico's airport operators. Government-owned AICM, which operates Mexico City Airport, saw its total passenger throughput drop 8% from 26.2 million passengers in 2008 to 24.2 million passengers in 2009.

As previously reported by ATI, Guadalajara-based airport group GAP recorded a 13% drop in throughput from 22 million to 19.3 million passengers while Cancun-based ASUR recorded a 12% drop from 17.8 to 15.7 million passengers. DGAC data shows Monterrey-based OMA, which along with GAP and ASUR is publicly traded, with an 18% drop from 14.1 to 11.5 million passengers.

ASA, a government-owned operator of smaller Mexican airports, saw its traffic throughput drop from 1.7 million to 1.6 million passengers.

On the cargo side there was a 16% drop in the domestic market from 110 million tonnes to 94 million tonnes. Mexican carriers also recorded a 4% drop in international cargo traffic to 138 million tonnes while foreign carriers serving Mexico recorded a 14% drop to 234 million tonnes.

Estrafeta was the largest Mexican cargo carrier domestically last year with a 25% share of the market. Internationally, LAN Mexican subsidiary MAS Air was the biggest player among all Mexican and foreign carriers with a 22% share of the total international cargo market.

Despite the big declines in traffic the country's two largest carriers ended 2009 with bigger fleets. According to DGAC data, Grupo Aeromexico's fleet grew last year from 97 to 114 aircraft while Grupo Mexicana's fleet grew from 91 to 112 aircraft. This was driven mainly by the acquisition of regional aircraft which both airline groups have been using to open new routes as well as replace larger aircraft.

Mexico's three low-cost carriers, in comparison, ended the year with only 50 aircraft. This represents only a three aircraft gain compared to 2009 with all three aircraft being added by Volaris.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news