Mexico is a great travel bargain right now thanks to a strong dollar and weak peso, plus no matter where you go there the weather is better than most states and provinces to the north.
One of the other main reasons close to 30 million travelers a year flock there though is that it is relatively easy to fly to Mexico for a good price. Plus it keeps getting easier. A relaxation of rules this past year has led to more competition at key airports. With Southwest adding more and more options, there are also more opportunities to go with an airline that doesn’t nickel and dime you for your vacation luggage.
You can look past those players, JetBlue, Frontier, and Spirit to a number of Mexican airlines too though. You’ve long been able to get there on Aeromexico from some cities, but now there are more alternatives between the two countries.
Alternate Budget Airlines in Mexico
Many consider Interjet the most pleasant of the Mexico airlines. They used to compete head-to-head with Volaris, but then the latter blinked and went the no-service route while Interjet took the high road. While others were adding seats they were removing them and give more legroom than any other. They also have a women’s restroom on board. You can check two bags when you travel. If you’re willing to pay the “Priority” ticket price (kind of like Southwest’s business fare) then you can check three—yes three—bags of 25 kilos each. (Keep that in mind if you’ll planning to move south of the border.)
Despite all that, they often have the best value you’ll find from the right U.S. airports, like that sub-$100 flight from Miami to Mexico City you see at the top of this post. That’s worth doing for a long weekend! They also have good rates within Mexico. I once flew them with my family from Mexico City to Puerto Escondido. The flights came out to be about $20 each more than the very long bus ride would have been.
It doesn’t end there either. Interjet also flies to Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Colombia, and Peru. You could in theory go from New York City to South America on this airline—probably for less than you’d spend on any of the less pleasant big 3 U.S. options.
Volaris Mexican Airline
Competing as a budget airline these days, Volaris adds lots of fees for services you would normally expect to be included. (They have 23 different codes just for all the different kinds of bag fees.) Volaris is still better than Viva Aerobus (see below) and has a good number of direct domestic flights that enable you to avoid going through Mexico City’s chaotic airport.
Their big advantage though is they fly to an impressive 24 destinations in the USA, including smaller markets such as Austin, Milwaukee, and Portland. If you plan ahead those flights are often crazy cheap, especially from Las Vegas. That’s the base fare though. When I checked a one-way flight from Chicago to Leon a month from now, the base fare was $170 but the fees were $77 more. They bundle these together in three options, which could accurately be called “minimum,” “decent,” and “Southwest amenities plus a seat assignment.”
This airline is an oddity because it mostly flies prop planes instead of jets. Its original mission was to shuttle oil workers to places people had no reason to visit otherwise, but over the years they have expanded into leisure destinations too. It feels kind of strange these days to get into a plane with propellers that seats more than 10, but inside it’s like any other modern airplane.
Aeromar flies to 27 destinations, including odd ones like Jalapa and Los Mochis, plus Tuscon and McAllen (Texas) in the USA. Sample one-way fares include Tucson to Guadalajara for $175 and Merida to the capital of Chiapas for $118. One checked bag and a carry-on are included.
What would happen if RyanAir and Spirit got married and moved to Mexico? Viva Aerobus!
If you don’t mind paying as much in fees as you paid for your fare, this is the Mexican airline for you. They follow the much-hated playbook of charging you for everything that they can get away with, including picking a seat, packing a carry-on, or getting a boarding pass at the counter. They are basically competing with the very nice local bus companies—thus the name—but the Mexican buses actually give you more than you expect for free while Aerobus keeps reaching into your pocket.
The total fares can be far cheaper than the bus though, especially for long distances. They’re currently selling Mexico City to Cancun on some dates for about $60 round trip. Even if you check a bag, bring a carry-on, and pick your seat it comes in under $100. As with Allegiant and Spirit, it can be worth it to pony up for the fees to save overall.
They also have a price guarantee that they won’t be undersold, but there’s a lot of fine print.
Technically this is an international airline because they have one flight to the USA, but it’s just between Monterrey and Houston, which is no help for vacationers.
This unfortunately named airline is not stuck to the ground. It is actually reaching more destinations each year. From its hub in Queretaro (near San Miguel de Allende) it originally flew to beach destinations and still does. But now this Mexico airline covers 29 destinations stretching from Merida all the way to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula.
The website is only in Spanish and you won’t find these flights on Kayak, but get a fluent friend or pop into a Mexican travel agency to sort it out. If you do you might connect between two cities you didn’t know had air connections or get a deal like I found for $50 one-way between Guadalajara and Mazatlan. Flights are domestic only for now.