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Mérida’s airport begins to recover lost ground

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
As COVID-19 numbers continue to drop, more and more business travelers and holidaymakers feel that it is now safe enough to travel to and from Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

Traffic continues to increase at Mérida’s Manuel Crescencio Rejón international airport, which received an average of 5,200 passengers a day during April. 

“As we kick-off the month of May things are looking much better. We expect to see airlines continue to increase their number of flights,” said airport administrator Óscar Carillo Maldonado.

International flights connecting Mérida with Houston and Miami have been operating at near maximum capacity over the past month. 

The popularity of these international routes seems to be fueled by locals wishing to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Return flights between Mérida and Houston increased up to $1,200, for a trip that used to cost under $400 on average.

On April 24, United Airlines announced that it would be increasing the frequency of its Mérida-Houston flights to twice daily. As a result, the cost of flights on the route seems to have returned to normal, according to Google Flights. 

There is no word if and when WestJet will resume its once-popular route connecting Mérida with Toronto.

Most domestic flights have been selling an average of 75% of total seats, with flights to and from Mexico City making up 90% of domestic traffic.

Earlier: Mass vaccinations proposed in Mexico tourist hot spots

Other active domestic routes include flights to and from Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Cancún, Veracruz and Villahermosa.

The recovery comes after a year that saw flights in and out of Mérida’s airport all but dry up due to COVID-19 pandemic. But despite a dramatic reduction in ticket sales and flights, the airport never suspended its operations. 

This year’s Easter holidays marked a turning point. Large numbers of travelers took advantage of the holiday to visit beach destinations such as Cancún and Acapulco. Mérida also saw an increase in flights during this period, a trend which business leaders in Yucatán hope will continue.

“It is key that Yucatán keeps its COVID-19 infection rate as low as possible so that we may stay on yellow and hopefully move on to green in the not too distant future,” said Carillo Maldonado, making reference to Mexico’s epidemiological traffic-light system

But industry analysts point out that Yucatán must be cautious. Otherwise, the state will be forced to return to orange — as recently happened in Quintana Roo.

Mexico is one of the few countries not to require international visitors to prove their COVID-19 status. On an average day, the Cancún international airport alone receives well over 200 flights, over half of them international.

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