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The Best Airlines to Fly to Mexico

As someone who has been visiting Mexico annually since the early ’00s and has lived here off and on since 2010, I’ve been on a lot of planes flying back and forth. I have landed in at least 11 different international airports that I can remember. Mexico is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations and it has great air connectivity, so you have lots of choices. The best airlines to fly to Mexico can vary though depending on your budget, your baggage, and the points of departure and arrival, so I’m going to run through all the options. 

the best airlines to fly to Mexico

In general, international flights are going to cost more than domestic flights within the USA or Canada, but that’s not always the case for flights to Mexico. Sure, there are more taxes and fees in there than for a flight across the USA, but sometimes that’s offset by other factors, including demand (easy to fill a plane headed to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta), fuel costs (Atlanta to Cancun is closer than Atlanta to Seattle), and competition. 

Plus you have a lot of airlines flying the same routes, including two budget airlines based in Mexico and many of the ones based in the United States and Canada. The low-cost carriers may annoy us with their bait-and-switch pricing and their constant upsells during the booking process, but their being in the game keeps the fares in check on the legacy airlines as well. 

If you came here from a browser search and you’re looking for a quick answer, without details, here’s a quick list of the airlines that fly to Mexico:

From Canada: Air Canada, Air Transat, Westjet, Sunwing, Swoop, Canada Jetlines, Flair, Air Canada Rouge, Canada Jetlines, Sunwing Airlines and now Lynx Air starting 2024 from Toronto.

From the USA: American, Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska Air, Sun Country, Spirit, Aeromexico, Volaris, Viva Aerobus, Frontier 

From Europe: Air France, Iberia, TAP Portugal, Air Europa, Tui, Austrian, Euro Atlantic, Eurofly, Edelweiss, British Airways, Condor, Discover, Iberojet, LOT, Lufthansa, Neos, Wamos, World2Fly, Emirates, KLM, Turkish, Finnair 

From Central America and South America: Avianca, Copa, Aerolineas Argentina, Wingo, LATAM, Volaris, Azul, GOL

From Asia: All Nippon, Aeroflot, Aeromexico (plus more via the USA). 

Check rates here from your own airport

The Best Airlines to Fly to Mexico for Cheap

Are you a light packer, or at least someone who can get by with just one suitcase? Does your body size allow you to be indifferent about seat width and how much legroom you have? Are you the kind of person who can endure being stuck in a middle seat for a few hours? Then step right up and find a bargain flight to Mexico on a budget airline. 

cheap flights to Mexico

The airlines that often elicit an audible groan when mentioned are the ones that will let you fly to Mexico for cheap. Allegiant doesn’t fly to Mexico, but Spirit Airlines does, the airline that recently came out on top in a study of which airlines soak you for the most fees added to the base fare. Frontier Airlines is not much better and is the one that will try to upsell you the most times (12) during the booking process. Both of them show crazy cheap fares when you first do your search, however. If all you’re bringing is a small bag that goes under your seat and you don’t care where you sit, you may be able to fly to Mexico for less than $100 one-way. 

The same goes for their Mexican equivalents Volaris and Viva Aerobus. Hey, at least the latter is honest about the experience they’re delivering. Their name tells you that the experience will be like being crammed in a bus, but with wings.

The cheap airfare prices look great in the search results, but those are not really the prices. In all of these cases, ignore the first price you see because that’s just the opening bid. By the time you add on all the services a normal human going on vacation would expect, like an assigned seat and something to hold a few changes of clothing, the price can easily triple or quadruple.

The airlines know this, but they earn most of their profits from fees, so they’re not going to be transparent about the bait-and-switch fees until they are forced to be. The Mexican fares quoted at first don’t even include the airport fees and taxes until the third or fourth screen, even though the fees are mandatory!

It can be worth it to fly on these low-cost airlines for reasons apart from the low prices though. Volaris flies direct to many Mexican locations from Los Angeles, Oakland, and Chicago. Viva Aerobus flies direct from Las Vegas, Denver, New York City, and five cities in Texas. If you can fly direct and avoid a hub, it’s easier to bear the fees, the lengthy check-in process, and reduced services.

Then we get into a middle ground of airlines where if you’ve got your calculator handy to add up total ticket prices, you may be able to do better in the end when you add up all the fees from the low-cost (supposedly) carriers. You may be able to get to where you’re headed on JetBlue or Southwest Airlines for less in the end, plus you’ll have a better experience and better service. Then if you have Southwest points, you can really get a deal. I once flew from Cancun to Orlando for less than 5,000 points. Since I got 40,000 from their credit card bonus when I signed up, 5K was nothing. (Follow that link and as I write this they’re offering 75K!)

Here’s a quote between Puerto Vallarta and Chicago, which is not exactly short. 

Southwest frequent flier points to Mexico

Yes you have to pay $78.36 on top in that case, but those are the government taxes and fees that would be in your paid ticket regardless. You can’t get around them. 

It’s rare that you’ll find the cheapest flights for Mexico on a legacy airline, even comparing apples to apples with the final price. They have joined the race to the bottom though and stripped out most services that used to be included. So even even if you’re looking up American Airlines flights, now you have to go through the whole booking process to figure out your final tab, especially since they love to show the horrible “basic economy” flight price first. (Avoid that category always unless you’re desperate and luggage-less.) 

The calculation changes if you have elite status or a United credit card, however. Then you might automatically get an assigned seat and a checked bag in the system. Delta Airlines and American Airlines cards only give you a free domestic checked bag, so they’re no help, but if you have status then that adds some perks. 

The Best Airlines if You Are Bringing Luggage

flying to Mexico with checked luggage

When people used to ask me, “Which are the best Mexican Airlines?” I had an easy answer: fly Interjet. They gave you far more legroom than any of the other carriers and when they started out, they used to hand out Krispy Kreme doughnuts on flights. A few years ago during the pandemic they got so broke though that they grounded some flights because they couldn’t afford to pay for fuel. Soon after, they went bankrupt and disappeared. Some other players have come along to replace them domestically within Mexico, but not on international routes. 

If you’re just headed to a hot beach location in April, you probably could get by without much clothing. Hey, go to one of those nude swinger resorts and you’ll need even less. Judging by what I see normal vacationers bringing to Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta, however, it’s a rare person who can get by with just an underseat personal item bag. I have flown international with just an underseat bag before, but it wasn’t easy. 

Most people will at least bring a carry-on bag, but even more want to bring enough outfits, shoes, and sunscreen to warrant a checked bag. Thankfully most of the budget airlines have wised up and realized it’s in their best interest to have passengers check their bag: the planes take off faster and the flight attendants have fewer hassles at take-off. So it’s often cheaper to check a bag than carry yours on. 

That doesn’t mean it’s a deal though. In the early days of luggage fees it was a few bucks. Now Spirit Airlines charges more than $50 for one piece of luggage on every route, which may be more than you paid for that TJ Maxx suitcase in the first place! It’s frequently more than the airfare itself, before you even add in all the other fees. Look at this chart below:

Spirit Airlines baggage fees rip-off

Some people worry about pickpockets in Mexico but they really shouldn’t. What they should worry about instead is getting robbed by Spirit Airlines. If you fly with them on vacation to Cancun, you’ll pay $65 for a carry-on bag, $60 for a checked bag, and an insane $74 for a second checked bag. And that’s if you plan ahead! I couldn’t fit everything into that screenshot, but if you want until you arrive at the airport, you’ll pay $89 for the privilege of carrying your own small bag on and off of their plane.  

The most obvious solution to this is to fly on Southwest. Then you can check two bags if you want and it’s included in the fare price. That’s what I would do if I were in your shoes and I was flying to Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, or Los Cabos. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if you’re flying anywhere else in Mexico. Those are the only destinations Southwest serves. 

So then we’re back to the calculator again. You need to go through the whole annoying process of searching, then going through booking screens, then doing comparisons, then you’ll be able to compare flight A to B to C. You may find that you can take the budget airline fare and just pony up a lot of fees to get what you need and it’ll still be less than a flight on American Airlines. Other times the legacy carrier will be a better deal when you see the final price. 

Outside of Toronto, You only have a few choices from where you live in Canada unless you want to get creative and fly somewhere in the USA and then change to a budget carrier from the USA or Mexico. This is true for most European countries too, though the UK has more choices than the others and sometimes you can find deals on TAP Portugal or Iberia. The trans-Atlantic budget airlines are constantly popping up and going under, so you might have to dig deeper to see all the options. 

Airlines to Mexico That Offer Comfort

business class flight to Mexico

You can be comfortable on a budget airline. It just takes more work. My attitude is, if you’re going to endure the likes of Viva Aerobus or Sun Country, then suck it up and pay more to upgrade your experience. While a “premium economy” seat on Delta or American can easily cost you $100 more, upgrading to a bulkhead or exit row seat on Volaris can cost you less than $20, on a plane where you have to pay to pick a seat anyway. You might as well snag a good seat and enjoy it. 

So if you want to go that route, put it in your budget and either pick a more expensive package bundle or just pick the cheapest option and add on with abandon. I once did that with my family on a flight from Mexico to the USA and for $36 we booked 3 seats together at the very front of the plane and I paid a bit more to check our bags. But we were the last ones on, we had a comfortable flight, and we were the first ones off. It was totally worth it and still cheaper than it would have been on Aeromexico or Delta. 

Otherwise, skip Basic Economy on a legacy airline and know that while it won’t be as nice as it used to be, you’ll get a little more for your money. You won’t have to spend money to avoid dying of thirst. You can pick a seat in advance. You can probably bring a carry-0n bag without paying extra. There might be entertainment. If you check a bag, your allowance will be 50 pounds, not 40. 

Aeromexico has a slight edge over their American counterparts in one respect: they still serve alcoholic beverages gratis in economy class. They sometimes have better food than the domestic ones if you fly Aeromexico business class. Aeromexico can also get you to almost anywhere with an airport in Mexico if you’re willing to change planes in Monterrey or Mexico City. They’re your best option if you’re flying from the USA to Puerto Escondido, Zihuatanejo, Morelia, or other smaller airports.

If you have status on one of those legacy airlines or you’ve signed up for the right airline credit card, then that tilts the advantage to whichever airline that is. If you’re in their hub city, you might have a direct flight.

If you have high status on Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, or Delta, there might be an upgrade in the mix. If not though, you have to do the math. I recently checked direct flights from my local Mexican airport Leon/Guanajuato to Houston because I’m headed there for a conference next year. The flight on Viva Aerobus, with a bundle that includes seat selection, a checked bag, and a carry-on, was $197 one-way. The same route on United was $367 one way with the same inclusions. I’d have to be a very loyal United Airlines flyer to pay that premium. The difference is almost enough to add a second person! 

Always check the business class fares though, especially if you’re headed somewhere besides the capital or an industrial city. Especially on Aeromexico, the business class seats get discounted heavily if there aren’t enough tickets sold and it can be worth the premium. Or you may get a reasonable upgrade offer when checking in and it might be enticing enough for a splurge. If you need an excuse, that usually gets you two free bags and an airport lounge visit. 

Check prices for your flight here

Which Airlines Serve Which Cities in Mexico?

fly to Cancun Mexico

I do a lot of “second right answer” searching when I’m flying in and out of Mexico. The best airlines to fly to Mexico tend to have the most options for the busiest airports. Back when I had a little beach house near Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsula, sometimes we’d all fly straight to Merida. There’s not much competition at that airport though, so sometimes it was cheaper for the three of us to fly to Cancun, rent a car there, pay the tolls, and even spend a night or two in Cancun before we left. 

So point one is, Cancun International Airport has more flights than anywhere else in Mexico. For a few months during Covid times when there was no business travel, it was the busiest airport in the world. It’s still in the top 10 now by passengers served. Up at the top is a list of who flies to Mexico from different regions and about 95% of those airlines are going into Cancun. There are just a few that only travel to Mexico City. 

After those two largest airports, the choices go down quite a lot, but the numbers are growing all the time. Aeromexico is adding some new routes in the USA next year, Viva Aerobus has announced 10 additions, and Volaris will be adding even more. As these airlines push into more markets, it should make the fares from U.S. carriers even more attractive since they have to compete. 

I live near the Leon/Guanajuato airport in Mexico (BJX), which serves arrivals to Leon, Guanajuato City, and San Miguel de Allende. I can get to a lot of places from here on American, Delta, United, Volaris, Aerobus, and Aeromexico. Those airlines also serve Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla. Some combination of them serves a long list of other smaller cities like Oaxaca, Chiapas City, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, and Mazatlan. 

Guanajuato Mexico via BJX airport

If you are having trouble finding a reasonable flight to where you’re headed though, get creative and patch two flights together or take a bus from where you’re landing to where you’re going. Some bus lines leave straight from the Mexico City airport, which is super handy. Here’s a guide to the Mexico City Airport for foreigners. 

The executive or luxury bus options in Mexico are quite nice. They only have three seats across, with lots of legroom, so they’re akin to business class on a plane. Once the Maya Train is finished in the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll be able to take a train from Cancun south to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Lake Bacalar. Or you can take it west to Merida, Campeche, and beyond. Where you land in Mexico isn’t where you have to end up. You can find beautiful beaches for hours north of Puerto Vallarta and then for another four hours south of that airport.

Preparing for Flying to Mexico

Many of the things you have to worry about when flying to another country are not an issue for Mexico. You don’t need a visa for Mexico if you’re from a developed country and 99% of the time you can stay for up to 180 days with the stamp they put into your passport. It’s all electronic now for most airports, so there’s no form to fill out and no piece of paper to hang onto like you used to have to do. 

You do need a passport and it does need to have at least six months remaining before it expires, which is true almost anywhere you go. If you’re not checking a bag, you can utilize online check-in for all the airlines flying within North America and this can help you avoid the often long check-in desk lines at Mexican Airports. They always seem to have 8 or 10 people working, but only two actually helping customers.

If you’re headed to one of the well-known beach resorts, you can get by in English, but if you’re going outside of those you’ll need a little Spanish or a couple of suitable apps on your phone.

In places like Cancun you can spend dollars, but you’ll get a far worse exchange rate than if you used pesos. The best bet is to use an ATM upon arrival and hit “Decline” when they offer a specific conversion rate. You’ll get a better rate from your bank. Banco Popular de Mexico generally levies the lowest fees if you can find one of those. BanNorte is the worst. 

Mexico is still a mostly cash-based society, plus the tipping culture is as rampant as it is in the USA if you go to a place where Americans land by the planeload, so you’ll need pesos. Hoard your small change because if you pay for something that’s 50 with a 500, they usually won’t have change. (Sometimes even if you pay for something that’s 450 with a 500!) 

Most of the airports in Mexico are calm, organized, and easy to navigate. Then there’s the Cancun airport, which just might be the most annoying one in the world. It’s chaotic, distributed over terminals that aren’t connected, and seems to have 100 touts and scammers shouting at you no matter which exit you’re coming out of. The taxi cartel keeps prices inflated and it’s difficult to use Uber since there’s only one road in and out and the drivers have to go through a special gate to park. It’s worth the splurge to arrange a pickup to have someone with your name on a sign. 

Search flights to Mexico from your airport here



Friday 10th of November 2023

Hi Tim,

The wife and I are making the annual winter over in Yucatán and Campeche.

Thankfully, the highway from the Cancún airport seems to be much better than last year. We're flying jetBlue from Upstate NY - we can transfer Amex points without a problem and the airline and fleet are better than most, let alone legroom.

We'd prefer to fly into Mérida but schedules are terrible and the airfare is double to triple that of flying into CUN. We'll stay in Cancún City and take the ADO Platino into Mérida from there.

Just another option to explore ...