© Reuters. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg listens as U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the airline industry and consumer protections from the South Court Auditorium on the White House grounds in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg met on Monday with his Mexican counterpart to discuss a number of sticking points regarding Mexico’s aviation industry.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has increasingly exerted control over the industry and handed over civilian aviation duties to the armed forces, causing frictions between the two countries.

Buttigieg and Mexican Transportation Minister Jorge Nuno discussed Mexico’s plan to maintain a recently recovered U.S. air safety rating, given back to Mexico in September after it spent more than two years on a lower rating, Mexico’s transportation ministry said.

Aviation analysts have said that several issues, including a legal challenge of a major overhaul to Mexico’s aviation law, could put the recovery at risk.

The two also discussed Mexico’s move of cargo flights out of the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) to the military-run Felipe Angeles International Airport (AIFA), which opened last year and sits farther away from the capital.

The U.S. government had previously expressed concern over the move – appearing to pause a tie-up between U.S. carrier Allegiant and Mexico’s VivaAerobus as a consequence – and meeting with cargo carriers to hear their worries.

Buttigieg and Nuno also talked about strategies to reduce flight saturation at the AICM, the busiest in the country, the ministry said. Lopez Obrador has exhorted commercial airlines to move flights from the AICM to the AIFA.

Government-mandated flights cuts at the AICM are set to take effect in January, slashing slots from 52 per hour to 43 per hour despite outcry from airlines.

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