News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.
By Darren M. Popik —
I’ve flown with all of Mexico’s biggest airlines (plus the extinct Mexicana and even the small charter operator, MagniCharters), but until last week, I had never set foot aboard an aircraft belonging to the nation’s “executive” airline.
I’m speaking of Aeromar, a smaller airline that manages to fly “under the radar”, so to speak.
Despite having a small market share compared to the big guys (Aeromexico, Interjet, Volaris, and VivaAerobus), they’ve managed to carve out a profitable niche for themselves in the market as yes, an executive airline, as their motto suggests (see above photo).
The majority of Aeromar’s 100 or so daily flights operate to/from their hub at Mexico City International Airport (MEX, Terminal 2), but they don’t compete on the major routes with heavy competition – ie, the Mexico City-Guadalajara-Monterrey triangle. Nor do they serve the country’s other two busiest airports, in Cancún and Tijuana.
For the most part, they provide service to smaller cities where there is little competition, or in some cases, none at all, as is the case in Colima. When you look at where Aeromar flies, you can see that their customers are largely business or government travelers. That’s their market. (And that’s why they can charge higher fares than their competitors.)
They don’t have to focus on the leisure traveler – there are others who are already doing that.
My experience with Aeromar began when I arrived far too early (about one hour and 45 mintues prior to my flight) at Aguascalientes International Airport (AGU).
Unlike other carriers, Aeromar’s check-in counters at the smaller airports like AGU only open one hour before flight time. (Keep in mind that things are different if you’re departing from Mexico City, where check-in counters are open throughout the day, given the number of flights they operate out of MEX.)
With no bags to check, I was the first one to be checked in. The friendly agents handed me my boarding pass, and I was gone in no time. (Those checking bags first were subjected to a hand search of their bags by security agents.)
Passing through the security checkpoint was also a breeze, as my flight fell into a quiet time in the mid-morning period, so security officials were just sitting around waiting for customers. (As it is, there are typically 13-14 departures per day at AGU, though they do have flights to Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles, as well as Mexico City and Tijuana.)
Once I was on the secured side of things, in the relatively small waiting area by the airport’s four gates, I strolled over to the Aeromar’s Salón Diamante, which was just opening up for business.
Other than Aeromexico, Aeromar is the only Mexican carrier to have airport lounges, but with a difference – Aeromar’s lounges are open to all of their passengers, not just to those flying business class or with a lounge membership. (Aeromar only offers one class of service.)
Their Salon Diamante doesn’t offer as many amenities as Aeromexico’s Salón Premier lounges do, but it still serves the same purpose – it’s a welcoming place to relax, have a beverage, read, or watch CNN prior to departure. It’s an added bonus in keeping with their executive-focus. (Neither Interjet nor Volaris have lounges. And VivaAerobus? They’ll try to charge you a fee to stand and wait.)
While browsing through the latest copy of Mundo Ejecutivo (Executive World magazine), I had a coffee and some Japanese peanuts, along with some sort of Quaker mango granola bar. The snack bar also featured tea, juice, water, Coke, Fresca, and three brands of beer (Tecate, Dos XX, and Negra Modelo), though at 9:30 am, I wasn’t interested in beer. And, they have a nice selection of magazines in the lounge.
But before I knew it, I saw our plane pulling up, and it was time to go.
Another important thing to note with Aeromar, is that unlike the other guys, boarding doesn’t start 30 minutes prior to flight time – it’s more like 10 minutes.
And with the smaller planes they have, it’s a quick process. So it’s not uncommon to see passengers racing to the plane at the last minute – they know they don’t have to show up far in advance.
My flight this day was aboard an ATR 42 turboprop (Aeromar has 14 of these, plus two ATR 72 600’s, and two Bombardier CRJ 200LR regional jets). The ATR 42’s are 48-seat planes, but there were only 12 of us on the flight.
Our aircraft – an 18-year old plane, registration number XA-TAI – was pretty typical of any other turboprop I’ve been on. Sitting in my row three window seat, I couldn’t help but notice that the interior was showing its age, with evident wear and tear. But for this short flight – as most Aeromar flights are – it was no issue for me. Legroom was also about what you would expect on a smaller turboprop aircraft.
(Something curious: The window shade next to me was missing. This really should be replaced, and soon.)
We took off right on time, and about 10 minutes after take-off, our flight attendant came by to offer us a snack and drink (same options as in the Salon Diamante). So, being mid-morning, another coffee for me.
One of the unusual things about this model of aircraft is that the two seats in the front row actually face backward. I don’t think I’d want to sit there, staring back at strangers — but on this particular flight, with few passengers, it wouldn’t have been an issue anyway.
There were two magazines in the seatback, Aeromar’s Altitud magazine, and Newsweek en Español, which was odd, given that I thought they stopped publishing a print edition. But it was a good read with my coffee.
Upon landing at Mexico City, we taxied to Terminal 2, and parked a short distance away. With Aeromar, you walk off the plane, onto the tarmac, and then hop a shuttle bus, which drops you off by the luggage claim area at the terminal.
All in all, it was a pleasant trip with Aeromar, and I’d fly with them again. Everyone I dealt with from the airline (check-in, at the lounge, the gate, and on board) was friendly and helpful, and made my trip an enjoyable experience.
The only thing I didn’t get to check out this time was their Salon Diamante in Terminal 2, but that will have to wait for another trip.
But if there were one suggestion I could make to the airline, it would be to update/modernize the interior of their planes. As I said, this 18-year old plane looked its age, with wear and tear in the interior. (And there should never be any missing window shades.)
By the way, if you’re a member of United Airlines’ Mileage Plus frequent flyer program, it so happens that Aeromar uses this program as well. So, make sure you add your MP number to your booking to collect miles from your trip.
Looking at Aeromar from a leisure traveler’s perspective, they probably won’t be your first choice, because like Aeromexico, their fares are generally higher that what’s offered by Interjet, Volaris, and VivaAerobus. But occasionally, they do offer some good deals, and there are times where they are the most convenient option out there.
I do, however, think the carrier is right to market itself as an executive airline. Of course, it’s not quite private jet service, but it’s not far off. They treated me like an important and valued customer, which adds more to the experience, as far as I’m concerned.
Aside from their Mexican network of 23 cities, Aeromar also serves McAllen, Texas (MFE), and as of this coming October 21, they’ll begin flights to Austin (AUS). This strikes me as a great city for them to serve – there’s great potential for both business and government travel between the Texas capital and Mexico City.
Plus, in keeping with their business model, it’s a route with no competition.