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Red tape grounds U.S. flights to Mérida, Cancun

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Southwest Airlines’ first independent flight to Cancun in 2014 is greeted with a traditional fire truck water arch salute. Photo: anna.aero

Less than a week after launching service from Los Angeles to three Mexican cities, Southwest Airlines has canceled more than 40 flights since Wednesday due to an authorization issue with the Mexican government.

American Airlines has run into a similar problem with a planned Miami-Mérida route.

That direct flight was scheduled to launch Nov. 4, but was delayed because of a lack of authorization from the Mexican government, AA spokesman Matt Miller said. The company hasn’t set a new date for that launch of service.

Many passengers have purchased tickets through AA only to find their flights canceled. 

“I am surprised that AA would even be permitted to accept reservations prior to government approval,” one flyer from Montreal told Yucatán Expat Life. “I find this to be a misrepresentation on the part of AA.”

At Southwest, a spokesman expressed dismay at the situation.

“We’re still awaiting an official explanation to learn why these customary authorizations have not been issued, and we are optimistic that our close work with local authorities in Mexico will have us operating these newly added flights between Mexico and the U.S. very soon,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins told the Dallas Morning News.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is working “in close coordination with Southwest and our Mexican counterparts to resolve difficulties in operating to Mexico,” a spokeswoman said Friday.

Southwest announced new flights from Los Angeles to Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta in August to take advantage of a recently approved bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Mexico that allowed more flights between the two countries.

Passengers celebrate the airline’s first flight from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 4. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s Los Angeles to Mexico routes were the first flights to take advantage of the treaty when they launched Dec. 4, according to the company.

The airline said it submitted all the required paperwork to Mexican aviation authorities more than three months ago and the routes are “fully compliant with terms of the bilateral aviation accord.”

Southwest inaugurated the service with a flight from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta on Sunday and continued operating flights Monday and Tuesday. But by Wednesday, the airline had canceled the 10 daily flights to Mexico, with cancellations continuing at least through Sunday.

Flights launched before the treaty took effect are still operating as scheduled.

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