Business Aviation Operations in Mexico – Ground Handling
This is a post by authors Manuel Girault and Jorge Alva. Manuel and Jorge are based at Universal Aviation Mexico, which has an FBO facility in Toluca and aircraft ground handling facilities in Cancun, Los Cabos and Cozumel. Manuel is an expert on business aircraft operations in Mexico and can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Mexico and continues from our last article: “Business Aviation Operations in Mexico – Understanding Airport Ops.”
While full ground handler services and credit are available throughout Mexico for business aircraft operators, it’s best to work with your 3rd-party provider and ground handler in advance. For any special or non-standard requests, be sure to provide additional lead time.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Know information required to arrange ground handling
Provide your ground handler with a full schedule, aircraft type, tail number, operator information and full crew/passenger information, including pilot license numbers. Specify landing or other permit needs, as well as all services required, such as transportation, hotel accommodation, security, etc. This allows your ground handler to not only orchestrate all service and permit requirements, but to complete necessary forms in advance so that crew/passengers will just need to sign the paperwork on landing.
2. Private non-revenue and charter considerations differ in some ways
Charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators require landing permits, in advance, for Mexico and are subject to strict cabotage rules. Charter operators can only make one stop in Mexico, unless the additional stop is for tech purposes (no passengers/crew embark or disembark) or to clear Mexican security at Cozumel (MMCZ) or Tapachula (MMTP). Private non-revenue operations obtain permits on landing and enjoy greater flexibility in moving foreign and Mexican national personnel within Mexico. Ground handling and Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) procedures are the same in Mexico for both private non-revenue and charter operations.
3. Arrival/departure cards are required
Arrival/departure cards are required for all passengers/crew, and it’s best to have these completed in advance by your ground handler. Ground handlers are able to supply these cards to operators to keep onboard. Be aware that the forms do change from time to time, so ensure you’re using the current version.
4. Know ground handling workflow process
Ground handlers will acknowledge receipt of handling requests, begin arranging 4th-party services and notify airport authorities and CIQ of your estimated time of arrival. For international airports, ground handling can be set up with two hours’ notice. For remote locations, allow more time, so that a ground handling agent can reposition to the airfield. When traveling during local special event periods, it’s best to provide one or two weeks’ notification to arrange aircraft parking. Additional lead time should be considered when operating larger wide-body aircraft in order to secure aircraft parking and ensure required Ground Support Equipment (GSE) is available. Confirm any airport tow bar requirements and availability of GSE with your ground handler.
5. Mandated and random aircraft inspections may take place
When arriving in Mexico from the south, or from the Caribbean region, your first stop in the country – by regulation – must be either MMCZ or MMTP for security clearance. At these stops, the military may inspect your aircraft. The process, from wheels down to wheels up, takes about 45 minutes at MMCZ and 60 minutes at MMTP. Be aware that the Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC), or airport commandant, may conduct random ramp checks of aircraft, documents and permits. From time to time, the military do unannounced spot checks of aircraft – throughout Mexico – and this process usually takes about 15 minutes. Expect to encounter language barriers when dealing with local authorities. It’s always best to have your ground handler available to ensure that there are no miscommunications.
6. MMMX is not available to GA ops
Mexico City (MMMX) is restricted to scheduled commercial operations and not available for GA operations. The only exceptions are diplomatic flights or aircraft arriving between 2300-0500 local for maintenance purposes only.
7. Various government fees must be considered
When operating to Mexico, you’ll pay landing fees calculated by the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW), permit fees, immigration and customs fees, overtime fees (when applicable) and aircraft parking fees. Aircraft parking fees vary by airport and are usually based on MTOW and where you park on the field. SENEAM fees (to cover navigation costs in Mexico) are collected as part of fuel cost on fuel uplift. All of these fees may be settled on credit by your ground handler. It’s not recommended that operators attempt to pay these fees directly, as local currency is required, language barriers can be expected, and there will be delays.
8. Overtime may be possible at some airports
While not all airports in Mexico accept operations after hours, there are opportunities for overtime at certain airports. Requests for overtime, when it’s an option, should be advised 24 hours in advance, as airport commandants must approve such requests. Your 3rd-party provider, or your ground handler, will be able to let you know where airport overtime is an option and what the costs will be. Charges for overtime are usually calculated per 30-minute intervals, but charges, and charge procedures, vary by airport.
9. CIQ clearance is always required – even for tech stops
On first arrival in Mexico, you’ll usually clear CIQ at the general aviation terminal. At some locations, including Guadalajara (MMGL), you’ll clear CIQ at the FBO. Onboard CIQ clearance is restricted to diplomatic flights, medical flights or when handicapped passengers are onboard. CIQ clearance and landing permits are required for all international tech stops in Mexico.
Charter operators need to pay particular attention to permit considerations and cabotage restrictions when operating to Mexico. Your 3rd-party provider and ground handler will facilitate all government paperwork requirements to ensure a trouble-free operation to Mexico.