Mexico City: 2022 Business Aviation Destination Guide
With a metro-area population of more than 21 million people, Mexico City is not only the largest city in Mexico, it’s the largest in North America and one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Due to its enormous size, industry, and economy, Mexico City is a major hub and destination for business aviation traffic. Here is everything you need to know to plan a successful, legal, and compliant mission to Mexico City.
Mexico City Airport Options
Airport options for business aviation are more limited in Mexico City thanin most large international cities.
The city’s primary airport for commercial traffic, Mexico City (MMMX), is the closest airport to the event venues. However, it is not generally available for GA operations. MMMX is usually restricted to scheduled commercial operations and qualifying diplomatic movements. All other operators require special permission to land there. The preferred airport, therefore, will be Toluca (MMTO). For your ground handler to obtain a slot for MMMX, you’ll need to show valid authorization to operate there as it is closed to GA aircraft unless the operator travels to this airport for official government business. Lead time to obtain MMMX slots is two business days because they must be processed and approved by both Civil Aviation Federal Agency (AFAC) and the local airport authority.
MMTO is a 24–hour airport of entry (AOE) complete with FBOs, aviation fuel, credit, and all GA support services. MMTO is about a 60–minute drive to Mexico City, depending upon traffic and your destination in the city.
There are no close alternates to MMTO when operating to the Mexico City area. Queretaro (MMQT) would be the closest practical GA alternate, but it’s some distance from Mexico City. Drive time from MMQT to Mexico City is about 150 minutes. MMQT is a 24–hour AOE, without parking restrictions, airport slots, or prior permission required (PPR) mandates. To reduce the commute time into Mexico City, it’s possible to arrange helicopter charters. These transfers can take you close to your city center hotel.
Toluca Slots and PPR
There are no prior permission required (PPR) mandates for any airports in Mexico. The only location with airport slots is Mexico City (MMMX).
Parking at Toluca
GA parking at MMTO is available on each individual FBO ramp. Parking is at a premium, and not all FBOs and hangars are the same. Some FBOs are very restricted on parking. When comparing FBOs on the field, ask each how closely they park aircraft next to each other per their ground operations safety procedures and how often they will be repositioning the aircraft due to space restrictions.
Hangar space at Toluca
Hangar space for transient GA operations is available but limited. To meet the growing demand, in 2018, Universal Aviation Mexico opened a new $3.5 million, 50,000 square-foot hangar on the property of its FBO at MMTO. Universal Aviation has five hangars available at MMTO. Request a free quote for handling here.
Toluca FBOs and Ground Handling
There are many handling options at MMTO, including Universal Aviation Mexico. Ground handling infrastructure and services are equivalent to what you’ll find in the U.S. or Europe. Upon receiving a handling request, your local ground handler will provide customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) with your full schedule, crew, and passenger information and copies of all required documentation. They’ll notify CIQ, preferably a minimum of 24 hours before your estimated time of arrival (ETA), to ensure CIQ services will be available for your arrival. Arrangements for all requested aircraft services and support will be organized. Although handling in Mexico can often be set up within 30 minutes of notification, six hours additional lead-time should be allowed for landing permit arrangements and airport overtime requests. It’s best to provide your local caterer or ground handler with at least 24 hours advance notification for in-flight catering requests.
Required handling information
Information that’s needed to set up ground handling in Mexico includes:
- airworthiness and registration certificates
- worldwide and Mexican insurance
- crew and passenger details
- aircraft and operator information
- full schedule and required services
Also, charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators should provide:
- crew licenses and medical certificates
- OST 4507
- Aerodrome operating minima
While handling procedures are the same for private non-revenue and charter flights, additional lead-time must be allowed for charter permit requirements to ensure there are no documentation issues with AFAC.
In addition to providing a general declaration upon arrival, there’s also a requirement in Mexico to submit arrival and departure cards. Your ground handler will assist in pre-filling out this documentation. Upon landing, CIQ will review your gen dec, landing permit confirmation, and aircraft documents to ensure everything is correct and complete. Be mindful that all onboard documents must be originals and not copies.
Upon landing, CIQ and airport police will likely be out on the ramp and ready for you. But, if they’re not present, it’s permissible to open up an aircraft door upon arrival. Your ground handler will have provided CIQ with copies of all required documentation in advance. However, upon landing, the airport commandant will review the originals of all documentation before signing and validating your previously obtained landing permit. Random arrival checks are performed in Mexico, and airport police may search your aircraft from time to time. Operators may or may not be notified in advance of these enhanced inspections. The time involved with this process varies depending upon destination.
Be mindful of notification requirements when making schedule revisions. For example, in the case of date or crew/passenger changes, you’ll need to revise your landing permit. If these revisions are not made to your permit and authorities are not notified in advance, operators may be fined. Authorities in Mexico are strict in ensuring all information and documentation are correct and that no cabotage issues are involved.
Ground support equipment
The availability of ground support equipment (GSE) for general aviation (GA) is good at MMTO. It’s essential to confirm with your ground handler, in advance, that all required equipment will be available and ready.
There are several FBOs at MMTO, including Universal Aviation Mexico’s 16,384 square-foot FBO, featuring three direct ramp access points from taxiways, 135,000 square feet of ramp space, and a controlled private parking lot for clients. Universal Aviation Mexico’s FBO also features a 16,640 square-foot maintenance hangar and three overnight hangars (92,000 square-feet) with controlled hangar and ramp access with CCD cameras and biometric fingerprint scanners.
Like any major, world-class city, Mexico City has an abundance of international hotel chains to choose from. Where you decide to stay should depend on how long you plan to be in the area and where your primary destinations within the city are located.
Airport hotels are often popular options for crew staying in an area for one or two nights. For example, it’s usually preferable to stay in Toluca rather than central Mexico City for shorter stays. You’ll find 4- and 5-star hotels close to MMTO.
Longer stays in Mexico City
It’s recommended that crews stay in the city center for more extended stays at destinations. There are more hotel options, restaurants, and activities available. Consider local security issues anywhere you stay in the region. Some areas of cities — such as tourist districts — are safer than others. Advance security briefs should be considered, but it’s also important to talk with your ground handler regarding particular local areas that may be best to avoid.
Using un-vetted taxis and ground transport is discouraged. The safest and most efficient option for navigating Mexico City’s congested traffic is via pre-paid (car with driver) ground transport. Because this is the best option, availability is usually limited during high-traffic events, so it’s best to book early. You can get a free quote for ground transportation through Universal-Drivania Chauffeurs. Universal Aviation Mexico also has a dedicated employee available to assist with transfers at Toluca with advanced notice.
You have two fueling options at MMTO: ASA or from your FBO’s fuel truck. The official fuel price is published by ASA every Tuesday and the first day of the month. Note: The exchange rate of the Mexican peso fluctuates daily, affecting the final price in USD. Peak operating hours at MMTO are 0700–1000 and 1700–2000 local. Fuel delays can be expected for GA when using ASA fuel services during these peak times. Note that there are fewer fuel trucks available during the evening, 2100–0600 local, and fuel delays are more likely.
Quality catering is available through most FBOs at Toluca. Universal Aviation Mexico has an in-house caterer available 24/7 within its FBO. For assistance with in-flight catering, Air Culinaire Worldwide can help.
We recommend security briefings for all planned missions to Mexico City.
Airport security is of high standards at MMTO, with good airside access controls and patrols by the military, federal police, and airport guard services. It’s not necessary to arrange additional private security for your aircraft while parked at MMTO.
Mexico, just like any other country, has security risks and threats to be mindful of. Depending upon your trip’s purpose and the passengers on board, executive protection may or may not be recommended. It’s always best to communicate with your corporate security advisor to determine local recommendations for security briefs, secure transport, and/or executive protection For land transits between MMTO and Mexico City, added precautions are recommended during nighttime. When in Mexico City, avoid taking public taxis that have not been pre-vetted or arranged by your handler or hotel. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid known higher-risk areas, particularly at night.
CIQ must always be cleared in Mexico, even for international tech stops. CIQ clearance involves deplaning all passengers, crew, and luggage, which may be needed for inbound and outbound operations. At Toluca (MMTO), the process takes up to two hours, as fuel cannot be uplifted on the customs ramp. Once crew and passengers arrive at the airport, the ground handler will escort them through security screening and CIQ and out to the aircraft. Luggage will always be screened and, in some cases, opened for closer inspection. Be aware that even if you’re only on the ground for 30 minutes, all luggage must come off the aircraft for inspection.
Special security screening
In some cases, dogs will be brought on board to check for money, persons not declared, drugs or food.
Toluca is known for having extreme weather with high temperatures in the summer and wind, hail, and potentially ice in the winter. The rainy season in Mexico is during the summer months – between May and October. MMTO can experience thunderstorms and hail during rainy seasons. Fog may also be an issue, both during summer and winter at MMTO. There are also haze, smoke, and low-visibility conditions to be aware of at MMTO. In the vicinity of Mexico City, volcanic activity can occasionally spew smoke and ash into the atmosphere and cause temporary operating restrictions.
There are special events and holiday periods that can create issues for services and hotel availability. The Toluca (MMTO) Aero Expo occurs each year in March or April, and hotel availability is usually tight. Demand for preferred hotel accommodations and pricing will also be higher than usual during both the Grand Prix and when National Football League games are held in Mexico City. For both events, preferred hotels may sell out. While crew should not have a problem securing 4–star accommodations in the MMTO area, this location is not recommended for passengers due to long travel times to event sites.
The best airport option for business aviation missions to Mexico City is Toluca (MMTO). Parking and hangarage at Toluca are at a premium due to the airport’s traffic volumes and volatile weather. There are many good FBO and ground handling options at Toluca, including the award-winning Universal Aviation Mexico.