The Federal Aviation Administration downgraded its air safety rating for Mexico, prohibiting that country’s carriers from adding service to the U.S., the agency said Tuesday.
The decision is a new headache for airlines operating from the U.S. to Mexico, popular routes during the coronavirus pandemic as Mexico didn’t issue travel restrictions like many other countries did.
Mexican carriers can continue to operate existing service with the lower rating, but they can’t add new service or routes. U.S. airlines, meanwhile, cannot sell tickets that are operated by Mexican carriers with the U.S. airline’s name on it, a measure known as code-sharing.
Mexico’s Federal Civil Aviation Agency fell below the standards of the United Nations’ civil aviation organization following an assessment conducted between October and February, the FAA said.
Issues the assessment found included an insufficient number of inspectors and laws that didn’t do enough to ensure independence of the regulator by insulating it from political interference, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The Mexican aviation agency could not immediately be reached for comment.
The FAA said it would work with its Mexican counterpart to improve its rating.
Delta Air Lines, which has a code-sharing agreement with its partner Aeromexico, said its service to Mexico is operating normally.
“For customers who have booked a flight with Delta that is operated by Aeromexico, Delta may reissue their reservation onto the corresponding Aeromexico-operated flight,” the Atlanta-based airline said in a statement. “Delta apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause our customers, and will continue to coordinate with Aeromexico to minimize any disruptions.”
Aeromexico didn’t immediately comment.
“The first thing I want everybody to know is we believe Aeromexico is incredibly safe, and this is not about Aeromexico,” Delta’s president, Glen Hauenstein, told a Wolfe Research conference earlier Tuesday. “This is about the Mexican version of the FAA and about having some of the right protocols in place.”
Airlines have more than 21,000 flights scheduled between the U.S. and Mexico this month, a similar number to 2019, according to data from aviation data firm Cirium. Aeromexico has 693 flights scheduled.
This article originally appeared on CNBC