This is a post by authors Liliana Zagal and Enrique Camarena. Liliana and Enrique are based at Universal Aviation Mexico, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Toluca, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Cancun, and Acapulco. Liliana and Enrique are experts on business aircraft operations in Mexico and can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After an absence of 23 years, the Formula One Grand Prix is returning to Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez race circuit October 30-November 1. Business aircraft operators planning to attend this top international racing event – 71 laps around a newly renovated race track – have many options available in terms of aircraft parking, support services, and hotel accommodations. To snag the best and most preferred options, it’s recommended that you begin trip planning with your 3rd-party provider and ground handler as early as possible.
If you plan on operating into Mexico City for or during this event, the following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Primary airport
Toluca (MMTO) is the primary airport for General Aviation (GA) operators attending the 2015 Mexican Formula One Grand Prix. MMTO is a 24-hour airport of entry with 24/7 Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) clearance, full GA support services, Ground Support Equipment (GSE), aviation fuel, in-flight catering, and ample parking. Drive time from MMTO to Mexico City is between one and a half and two hours, depending on traffic. At this time we do not foresee aircraft parking being an issue during the Mexican Grand Prix period.
2. MMMX is not a realistic option for most GA operators
Mexico City (MMMX) is predominantly reserved for scheduled commercial and head of state operations, and it’s very difficult to arrange GA access into this location. While under some circumstances, it’s possible to obtain GA permission to operate to MMMX, the request process can involve two to three weeks, and successful outcomes are far from certain. What’s more: drive time from MMMX to the race circuit is about one hour – not much longer than from MMTO.
3. Alternate airports
If you’re not able to arrange overnight parking at MMTO, or if you choose not to operate to this airport, alternate airport options include Puebla (MMPB) and Cuernavaca (MMCB). MMPB and MMCB operate 0700-1900 local daily, and overtime can be arranged with several days’ advance notification, with overtime charges applicable. CIQ clearance is available at general aviation terminals at MMPB and MMBC, but be advised that immigration/customs agents at these airports are very strict in terms of regulatory compliance. They will not accept expired passports, birth certificate copies, or driver’s licenses as proof of citizenship. If proper documents are not provided on arrival – and this applies to all airports in Mexico – fines are assessed, and passengers are immediately deported. Drive times from MMBC and MMPB to the race circuit are approximately one and a half and two hours, respectively.
4. Landing permits, documentation, and airport slot requirements
Landing permits are required for all private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations to Mexico. Copies of required documentation must be forwarded with your landing permit request, and original documentation should always be carried onboard. Review of original documentation is at discretion of local airport authorities – including agencies such as customs, immigration, and security – even though they’ve received copies of all of this in advance. Often, they’ll take the time to verify document copies received in advance with onboard originals. If you send your gen dec in advance, your ground handler will make and distribute the additional copies. For more information on private and charter landing permit requirements, see our previous articles:
- More Mexico Permit Changes: Part 1 – Positive Developments for GA
- More Mexico Permit Changes: Part 2 – Potential Issues and Penalties
Note that airport slots are required for MMMX, but not for MMTO, MMCB, and MMPB.
5. CIQ documentation requirements
To set up CIQ clearance for any airport in Mexico, you’ll need to provide airworthiness and registration certificates and proof of Mexican insurance along with crew licenses and medicals. When arriving/departing Mexico, all passengers, cargo, and baggage are subject to security and CIQ inspections. From time to time, you may encounter enhanced inspections, complete with sniffer dogs. These procedures occur most frequently with aircraft arrivals from or departures to South American countries. For most GA flights, the CIQ process is completed in approximately 30 minutes. If you’re bringing bulk souvenirs or convention handouts into Mexico, we recommend shipping these ahead and not bringing them onboard your flight. The reason for this is that customs inspectors may do lengthy inspections of these items or hold them at the airport for extended periods.
6. Visa considerations
Be mindful that visas for Mexico are required for certain nationalities. U.S. nationals and permanent residents do not need visas, but required visas must be obtained prior to arrival in Mexico. More information on Mexican visa requirements can be found at www.inm.gob.mx.
7. Airport restrictions
MMTO operates 24/7, does not require airport slots, and has plenty of available parking; however, GSE availability is limited for aircraft types larger than an Airbus ACJ or Boeing BBJ. MMMX has facilities to accommodate the largest GA equipment, but you’ll have to contend with airport slot restrictions and, potentially, a multi-week application process to authorize a GA operation to this location.
8. Cabotage considerations
Cabotage regulations are strictly enforced in Mexico. Although it’s allowed for private non-revenue and charter operators to fly multiple legs within Mexico, caution is advised if you’re picking up anyone along the way who did not arrive in Mexico onboard your aircraft. Best practice is to submit your trip and proposed passenger details to the ground handler for review. He or she will advise if the particular multi-leg private or charter operations are permitted or not.
9. Arriving in Mexico from the south
If you’re making an international arrival into Mexico from south of the country or from the Caribbean region, you’ll need to first stop at either Cozumel (MMCZ) or Tapachula (MMTP) for security clearance and CIQ processing. This policy is strictly enforced, and no deviation from this requirement is permitted. CIQ and security clearance at MMCZ or MMTP takes approximately 40-45 minutes, and you can then proceed to your next destination in Mexico as a domestic flight.
10. Mexican APIS
Operators must complete Mexican APIS for all arrivals/departures to/from the country. APIS must be filed at least one and a half hours prior to arrival into Mexico. Required information includes passengers’ and crew members’ full names, passport numbers/expiration dates, dates of birth, and nationalities. It’s recommended that you have your 3rd-party provider or ground handler complete this step. If APIS is not filed correctly, you’ll likely be subject to penalties upon arrival.
11. SENEAM fees
Be aware that if you owe any SENEAM navigation or airport overtime charges when you arrive in Mexico, your aircraft may be detained. It’s recommended that you determine – with the assistance of your 3rd-party provider – if any fees are outstanding – prior to departing for Mexico – in order to avoid last-minute surprises. For more information on SENEAM fees see:
- SENEAM Fees for Travel to or Over Mexico – Part 1: Calculating Fees & Managing Payments
- SENEAM Fees for Travel to or Over Mexico – Part 2: Dealing With a SENEAM Suspension
12. Hotel considerations
If you’re traveling to MMTO, there are good 4-star hotel options close to the airport, and local ground handlers are often able to obtain attractive crew rates. There are many excellent 4- and 5-star hotel options to consider in Mexico City. Anticipate crew rates of 120-200 USD per night in Mexico City and the popular Santa Fe neighborhood, while rates at Toluca will likely be lower. Be prepared for preferred hotels in Mexico City and those close to the race circuit to sell out for the Mexican Grand Prix race weekend.
13. Local transport considerations
When crew members travel in Mexico City and between MMTO and Mexico City, it’s recommended that they use prepaid transport (car with driver). Taking public taxis on your own involves security risks. If you use a taxi service, be sure it’s been vetted by your ground handler or hotel. Rental vehicles are available, but not recommended due to heavy traffic congestion, limited street signage, and difficult parking options in Mexico City. Also, there will likely be road closures to consider during the Mexican Grand Prix.
14. Additional information
For additional information on the 2015 Mexican Formula One Grand Prix, see the Formula 1 website.
For a trouble-free and successful operation to the 2015 Mexican Formula One Grand Prix, ensure that SENEAM fee payments are up-to-date; that appropriate landing permits, aircraft parking, and visas are obtained; and that hotel accommodations are confirmed. It’s always recommended to forward handling requests, as well as accommodation and local transport requirements, to your ground handler as soon as schedule is known.
Universal and Universal Aviation are not associated in any way with the Formula One group of companies. F1, FORMULA ONE, FORMULA 1, FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, GRAND PRIX, and related marks are trademarks of Formula One Licensing B.V.
About Liliana Zagal
Liliana Zagal has been with Universal Aviation Mexico – Toluca for ten years and today holds the position of Manager of Outlying Stations, Sales and Marketing. With a background in sales and marketing, customer service, and as a flight attendant, Liliana has enjoyed the many new challenges, and areas of responsibility, that have presented themselves as Universal Aviation Mexico – Toluca has grown to become the leader in business aviation support throughout Mexico. Her areas of expertise include sales and marketing, operations, permits and SENEAM (Navigation Services for Mexican Airspace) coordination, in addition to overall customer support. Liliana, fluent in both English and Spanish, has been a speaker at the NBAA IOC conference as well as at Outlying Stations regional meetings. She can be reached at email@example.com.
About Enrique Camarena
Enrique Camarena has been with Universal Aviation Mexico for two years and holds the position of Manager of Operations at for our Toluca location. Enrique has a 14 year background in commercial aviation specializing in passenger service. Additionally, he held the position of Airport and Regional Operational Manager for another airline His current responsibilities are to oversee the catering, dispatch, customer and line service departments. Enrique is fluent in both English and Spanish, has been trained as a ground security coordinator and safety procedures for ground handling operations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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