MCALLEN, Texas – A top maquila leader believes the City of McAllen can attract even more business men and women from Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley thanks to improved connectivity at the McAllen International Airport.

Enrique Castro has led INDEX, a trade association for the maquiladora industry, at the national and in Reynosa.

At this week’s McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting, Castro said he is impressed by the expansion of services by Aeromar Airlines at McAllen International Airport.

“Listening to the mayor at the recent State of the City address, I was really amazed how the airlines are starting to look at McAllen. We need those taxes. We need people coming from Reynosa other parts of the country to McAllen,” Castro said.

Castro pointed out that a lot of people are flying into the United States from Mexico to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

“A lot of people are coming over to get vaccinated, from all over Mexico. I know a lot of friends who have gone to Houston, Dallas, to get that. I said, why not come to the Valley?”

Aeromar has provided flights to Mexico City from McAllen for a number of years. In April it started a McAllen to Monterrey service. Next up is McAllen to Guadalajara, with an extension on to Puerto Vallarta. At the MEDC board meeting, Castro made another suggestion.

“I have been talking to the people from Aeromar, Fabricio and Felicia… they are trying to get other routes into McAllen. They opened one from Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. They were mentioning Queretaro. It is not because we have a facility over there at Queretaro and we have a house over there and I am originally from there. I think it is a central point (in Mexico) where we can reach a lot of businesses,” Castro said.

The Fabricio that Castro mentioned is Fabricio W. Cojuc, executive director of network strategy and alliances. The Felicia that Castro mentioned is Felicia Villarreal, director of marketing and public relations for McAllen EDC.

Retiring McAllen Mayor Jim Darling was present at the MEDC board meeting. Castro said he wished Darling was staying on another year to help finalize a direct flight from McAllen to Queretaro and facilitate a twin-city arrangement.

“I think it be a good idea, to help Felicia to get that marketing (effort going) and bringing that kind of tourism to McAllen.”

Castro added: “I think we have to take advantage of the opportunity we have right now. To take advantage of what McAllen is. It is the central point for the Valley and we have a good opportunity to bring more people (from Mexico). I don’t care if it is by air or by ground. I think we can do that.”

Later during the MEDC board meeting, Elizabeth Suarez, director of aviation at McAllen International Airport, spoke in depth about Aeromar’s increased operations at her airport.

Suarez started by giving an overview of flight activity. 

“I have some great news to report. The market has increased by ten percent in the number of emplanements, when compared to last year. This is a rally positive indicator,” Suarez said. 

Suarez noted that 54 percent of enplanements was via American Airlines, with 34 percent through United, nine percent through Allegiant, and three percent through Aeromar.

Looking at the months of January and February, 2021, Suarez said 46 percent of flights in the Rio Grande Valley go through McAllen, 37 percent through Harlingen and 17 percent through Brownsville.

“The year 2019 was an historic high. The highest amount of passenger traffic we have ever seen at our airport. This April we outperformed the same month in 2019. We e are very excited to see that number.”

As for Aeromar, Suarez said its flights from McAllen to Monterrey started April 22, and nonstop flights to Guadalajara, with an extension to Puerto Vallarta, are starting soon, 

“During the last three months, before the Monterrey service launched, Aeromar had one of the best months ever, with over 3,000 emplacements. With the introduction of Monterrey it looks like they are going to end May with over 7,000,” Suarez said. “So, we are very excited about this opportunity. It is important that we continue to offer good connections to Mexico.”

Suarez said an encouraging sign is that now, about about 50 percent of passengers are flying outbound (to Mexico) and 50 percent outbound inbound. 

“It used to be very lopsided with about 80 percent of that route being inbound travelers. It looks like we are going to end May with about 3,000 bookings for Mexico City,” Suarez said.

“Monterrey is doing exceptionally well. They (Aeromar) started with a plan for two times a week. They are now talking about not only eight times a week but perhaps even twice a day. We are working every closely with them.”

Continuing to enthuse about the partnership with Aeromar, Suarez said: “Throughout their tenure they have served about six times weekly into our airport. Now, they are up to 25 operations at our airport. That is phenomenal growth for them. We have become a key partner for them, number two in terms of their network performance. (We are) a very strong market for them. (We have) added connectivity. It is not just tourism, it is a lot of business opportunity that we have.”

Suarez teased that she has one more big announcement to make in terms of added operations. 

“Aeromar will be basing one aircraft at our airport, which means they are looking for those short haul connections that will be extremely useful for our business community. So, we are extremely excited about that.”

Interviewed after the MEDC board meeting, Mayor Darling was asked about expanded Aeromar services from McAllen to Mexico.

“Fantastic,” Darling responded. “When you think about it, Guadalajara, that is one of the most historical cities in Mexico. Why would you go to Europe when you can jump on an airplane and be in Guadalajara in an hour and see beautiful buildings and churches and cathedrals? Why would you not do that?”

Darling predicted more business travel in and out of McAllen as the full impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement kicks in.

“Companies that have their headquarters in San Luis Potosi and all the big Mexican cities, their executives can jump on a plane and come to McAllen, and go to Mission and Edinburg and Pharr. People want to come to these cities too. It is a good time for the airport.”

Darling said he is looking forward to learning about the new route Suarez teased.

“Another important point. Getting through customs is so much easier at an airport. People ask me why fly to Monterrey when it is only a two-hour drive. I say, because you also have an hour to wait on the bridge. Monterrey makes sense as a short haul flight. And the price is reasonable. I think it is a great opportunity.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Liz Suarez, aviation director for McAllen International Airport, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, and INDEX Reynosa board member Enrique Castro.

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