MexDFmagazine

News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.

Consumer Report: Airfares between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada

By Darren M. Popik

In a previous column, we discussed the domestic travel market in Mexico, and how to find the best deals. (See “How to Get A Cheap Airfare in Mexico“.)

Now, we look at the international scene — specifically, the two largest markets for air travel to/from Mexico, that being the United States and Canada.

You can find deals to/from Mexico City, but this varies based on the airline and the specific city.

United Airlines landing in Calgary. (Photo: Darren Popik)

United Airlines 737 landing in Calgary. (Photo: Darren Popik)

Competition Keeps the Airlines Honest

The good news is that competition seems to keep airfares in line between Mexico City and the major U.S. hubs. As soon as one airline has a sale, others often match.

Also, in many cases, you can buy one-way tickets on these routes for half the price. You don’t necessarily need a round-trip ticket to take advantage of the best fare.

And don’t forget the two Mexican carriers, Volaris and Interjet, when you’re doing your fare shopping, because these airlines often don’t show up on on-line search results — you’ll have to visit their respective websites to find their fares.

Scanning the best available fares for round-trip tickets (departing Mexico City) in September, we found Miami for $294 (AA), Dallas for $294 (AA), Las Vegas for $297 (AA), Houston for $308 (AA), Los Angeles for $311 (AirTran), Denver for $350 (AirTran), San Francisco for $368 (United), New York for $423 (AirTran), and Seattle $437 (United).

In most instances, the major carriers match — or nearly match — each other on price.

Curiously, while Aeromexico remains consistently uncompetitive on domestic flights within Mexico (Volaris and Interjet have them beat almost without exception, and sometimes by wide margins), the airline tends to be very competitive on their US flights. Not necessarily the lowest fare, but close enough in most cases.

Alternate Airports

In a few key markets, consider alternate airports, and you could find a much better fare.

In the case of New York City, that means check JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia airports. (Aeromexico, Interjet, and Delta fly non-stop to JFK, while United serves Newark non-stop. Meanwhile, AA and US Airways offer one-stop service to LaGuardia.)

And for the Los Angeles area, Aeromexico, Volaris, United, and Alaska all fly to LAX, whereas Interjet and AirTran (Southwest) fly to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA). Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is yet another alternative.

In San Francisco (SFO) is your destination, don’t forget Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC) airports, which serve the Bay Area as well.

If you’re flying to Miami, there’s also Fort Lauderdale (FLL). It’s a cheaper airport for airlines to operate out of, so fares are often cheaper than the higher-cost Miami International. There’s non-stop service to MIA on American Airlines, Interjet, and Aeromexico, while “ultra low cost” Spirit Airlines, flies between Toluca and Fort Lauderdale. (However, given their terrible reputation for customer service, we really can’t recommend flying Spirit unless you have no other option.)

Other key cities with alternate airports: Chicago (O’Hare, Midway), Dallas (DFW, Love Field), and Houston (Bush Intercontinental, Hobby).

Westjet 737, on the tarmac in Calgary. (Photo: Darren Popik)

Westjet 737 on the tarmac in Calgary. (Photo: Darren Popik)

Canada

Most flights between Mexico City and Canadian destinations will require a stopover. The only non-stop service is to Vancouver (Air Canada), Toronto (Air Canada), and Montreal (Aeromexico).

But, for simple economic reasons, we have to cross one of these carriers off the list. That would be Air Canada.

At one time, AC offered competitive prices on Mexico flights, but no more. Now, they price themselves out of the market, to the point where we wonder why they even fly to Mexico anymore.

Their Calgary-based competitor Westjet outshines them on Mexico flights, but unfortunately, this customer-friendly airline doesn’t serve Mexico City itself — just the beach resorts. (Note: We’re lobbying the Westjet folks for flights to the DF!)

Looking again at September round-trip flights, from Mexico City to Calgary, US Airways offers the best deal at $613, while United and AA are just slightly higher. And Air Canada? They check in with an uncompetitive fare of $811.

Instead of AC’s inflated prices, you might as well fly AA in business class to Calgary — you can get that for $1,036. AC apparently doesn’t employ fare monitors as their American cousins do, because they charge $2,040 for the same business class ticket.

Who in their right mind would throw away an extra $1,000 just to fly with AC?

Looking elsewhere, in September you can get to Vancouver for $604 (US Airways). AC’s best is $718. To Toronto, again, US Airways is tops at $455; AC is $641.

And if Montreal is your preferred destination, here’s where you’ve got the cheapest prices – just $344 on US Airways. While Aeromexico will get you to their only Canadian destination for $450, AC is completely out of line at $651.

The Best Deals Are Found in …

If you really want the best fares between Mexico and Canada, your best bet is to skip Mexico City altogether, and fly out of Puerto Vallarta or Cancun.

Fly from Puerto Vallarta to Calgary (RT) with United for $476, Westjet for $506, or AC for $918. To Vancouver, it’s Delta for $441, Westjet for $496, while Air Canada, in an attempt to not sell any seats, wants $939.

Airfares Change … Frequently

Finally, just remember, that if you scan the fares one day and don’t see anything appealing, keep checking back. Airfares to the US and Canada fluctuate a lot, and you will often see changes from one day to another.

And also, keep in mind that the best days to shop for fares are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. These are days when airlines typically initiate fare sales, and their competitors often jump on board quickly to match.

In a future column, we’ll examine the options to/from Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Happy flying!

Twitter: @darrenchannel

2 comments on “Consumer Report: Airfares between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada

  1. Dave Hansen
    July 24, 2013

    Wow, what a lovely bunch of information, Darren. Air Canada is like CBC and money is not object. How they stay in business is beyond me. While working at the International Airport in Edmonton, Alberta I quite often heard passengers complaining about the lack of service provided by Air Canada and also how much they liked West Jet and how ‘people friendly’ they were. Keep up the great work! Dave Hansen

    • MexDF magazine
      July 24, 2013

      Thanks for the comments. AC’s prices to Mexico make no sense. Either they have nobody monitoring the fares offered by their competitors, or they employ the fail-safe practice of “cross our fingers and hope nobody notices that we charge way, way too much.”

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