The Best Mexican Airlines for Budget Travel

Mexico budget airlines

Can you name more than one or two Mexican airlines? It turns out there are a whole bunch of them and if you’re looking for cheap flights to Mexico, you may be better off with an airline from there rather than a U.S. one.

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. In the winter the Mexican beaches are inviting, while in the summer the central colonial highlands are cooler than much of the USA because of the altitude. 

One of the other main reasons that around 40 million travelers a year flock there though is that it is relatively easy to fly to Mexico for a good price for your vacation. Plus it keeps getting easier. A relaxation of rules in recent years has led to more competition at key airports. With Southwest flying there plus the Mexican airlines adding capacity, there are also extensive opportunities to go with an airline that doesn’t nickel and dime you for your vacation luggage. (Or if you do face baggage charges, the fare difference will usually outweigh that.) 

Sure, you can find a flight on the usual suspects plus JetBlue, Frontier, and Spirit, but your best choice might be a Mexican airline. They’re getting to a point where there are more airline choices in that country than there are in the post-consolidation USA. You’ve long been able to get there on Aeromexico from some cities, but now there are more alternatives between the two countries for cheap trips to Mexico.

Note – This article originally appeared in 2017, but was updated in June of 2019.

Alternate Mexican Airlines for Cheap Flights 

Interjet

Great legroom on Interjet Mexican airlineMany 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, Interjet was removing them to give more legroom than any other airline. Look at this photo to the right. When’s the last time you saw that much legroom in economy class? 

They also have a women’s restroom on board. You can check a bag when you travel unless you get the very lowest tier. If you’re willing to pay the “Priority” ticket price (kind of like Southwest’s business fare) then you can check two bags of 25 kilos each on international flights. (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! I can often find flights less than $150 (no checked bag) from my Guanajuato home to the USA. They fly from 10 U.S. airports, including Orlando. 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.

flight route map Interjet airline Mexico

 

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, but you can still bring a carry-on for no charge.) 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. Since there are direct flights within Mexico for less than $50, you can probably afford the bag fee.

What my wife and I have done before is have one person check a bag and the other not, then put all the heavy things in the checked bag. We flew one-way to Los Cabos like this for $120 one way—for two! 

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.” Unlike on Interjet, no matter which class you buy, you’ll have to pay up for something to eat or drink.

Aeromar of Mexico

Aeromar 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 Mexican airline

Aeromar has gone from 27 to 19 destinations as competition has heated up and their only remaining U.S. destination is McAllen, Texas. They are sometimes, but not always the cheapest option for second-tier cities they serve such as Zihuatanejo, Puebla, and Oaxaca. One checked bag and a carry-on are included. Aeromar is now 49% owned by Avianca, so they’ll be sticking around for a while.

Viva Aerobus

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. I’ve seen 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 flights from Las Vegas and Houston, but you have to go through Monterrey, which is not going to be the first choice for many vacationers, especially if they don’t speak Spanish well.

TAR Airlines Mexico

TAR Aerolineas

This unfortunately named airline is not stuck to the ground. It reaches 26 destinations from coast to coast across Mexico with its 50-seat jets. From its hub in Queretaro (near San Miguel de Allende) it originally flew to beach destinations and still does. But now it also flies to Merida, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and many other inland vacation places. You can sort of get to the USA with TAR: they fly to Tijuana where it’s a short hop to San Diego.

The website is now in English as of this year. You won’t find these flights on Kayak, so you’ll have to pull it up when you’re searching for flights within Mexico. 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. You can check one bag and bring a carry-on with no charge.

Calafia Airlines

This upstart airline based on Los Cabos flies planes as small as 13 passengers up to Embraer jets with 3 seats across. As you’d expect, they’ve got Baja covered, but they also fly to San Diego and across the country to Palenque, Cancun, and Guanajuato (my home–yea!). Just understand the long hauls may require a few stops. You’re allowed one checked bag and a small carry-on, but must pay for anything to eat or drink.

Guanajuato to Los Cabos less than $100

MAYAir

Not to be confused with Maya Island Air of Belize, this airline based out of Cancun flies to Cozumel, Chetumal, Merida, Veracruz, and Villahermosa. So no international flights, but it gets you close to Belize anyway if you’re headed south and are willing to go overland or by ferry to Ambergris Caye. They’ll get you ready for the Belize experience too because these are all prop planes.

Aerotucán

If you’re wanting to get from Oaxaca City to somewhere else in that region, Aerotucan has monopolistic prices but could save a day or two of your life that you would have otherwise spent on a bus. This airline flies between there and the coastal Mexican destinations of Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. It used to say that the capital of Chiapas and somewhere in Quintana Roo were “coming soon,” but now there’s just a blank photo you can’t click on. The website is only in Spanish. You can check a bag up to 15 kilos of weight. These are small planes…


Airfarewatchdog
So there you have it. If you’re looking for cheap flights to Mexico City or a bargain getaway for a Mexican beach vacation, look beyond the legacy U.S. and Canadian airlines. You’ll probably get better service and more comfort for a better price if you go with a Mexican airline instead. 

Comments
  1. Tim Leffel

    Thanks for this—a new option I didn’t know about.

  2. Scoops in DC

    This is exceptional – thanks Tim!

  3. Steve F

    I fly from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez on a regular basis. I think grab an Uber from the airport to the border and then walk across into El Paso. It is a lot cheaper and faster to go this route than to fly directly into El Paso; often for less than $140 each way versus $300 and only takes 3 hours versus a 7 hour flight because a layover. I have flown both Viva Aerobus and Interjet. My wife and I used to prefer Viva Aerobus when we flew up because we would travel to the US with empty suitcases and then return on Interjet with their generous checked baggage policy. Since Viva Aerobus changed their method of charges, we only fly Interjet; in the end, it is cheaper to do that with Interjet versus the Viva Aerobus charges on top of the ticket.

    • Tim Leffel

      Thanks for the tip Steve! I have friends who fly to Tijuana for the same reason, crossing into San Diego instead of flying there. I’ve actually never been on Aerobus. Too much like Spirit Air with a charge for anything and everything. There always seems to be a better alternative where I’m going.

  4. Jax Bal

    We’re Canadian and flew direct from Toronto to Cancun on Interjet and loved it! You can bring a backpack for your free carry on along with a personal item (ie. a purse), seats were comfortable, plus they give you a drink, snack and sandwich at no charge at a very good price. I just booked directly through their website.

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