In the past, budget travelers didn't even consider traveling by air within Mexico, since fares were exorbitant and flight routes were limited. They mostly traveled by bus and private car, and spent many long hours on the road. Bus service in Mexico can be excellent - with varied levels of service and good coverage throughout the country, but Mexico is a very large country, and bus travel between destinations can take an exorbitant amount of time. Budget travelers can rejoice that the landscape of air travel in Mexico has changed, and it is now both affordable and convenient.
Two major airlines, Aeromexico and Mexicana de Aviacion dominated the Mexican air travel market for many years. They were publicly owned, and fares were exorbitant, so much so that flying was not an option for most travelers. These airlines were privatized, and later, Mexicana went out of business, and several Mexican discount airlines entered the scene, creating competition and bringing airfares down.
There are a few caveats. Travel aggregators often do not include Mexican discount airlines in their searches. So finding and booking flights can require quite a bit of research - you'll have to visit the website of each airline, plug in the origin, destination and dates you would like to travel and compare prices. When searching for airfares on Mexican airlines, keep these points in mind:
If you purchase different legs of your journey through different airlines, you are generally responsible for making your connections. That means that if your first flight is delayed or cancelled, you may miss your connection and have to pay to get your ticket changed for another flight. So be sure if you are booking flights on different airlines for the same day that you leave plenty of time in between.
When you first land on the website of a Mexican airline, it may be in Spanish. Look for a little US or British flag in the corner to switch to an English version if one is available. When plugging in your search, you may have to choose your geographical region and / or currency.
Prices in pesos
Don't be too dismayed when you see a fare that is in the thousands. That's most likely pesos and not dollars. You should be able to choose the currency for the operation, or it may depend on where you are located geographically at the time of booking.
Fees and taxes not included
Depending on the airline, taxes and certain fees may not be included in the initial price. You will see the total price after selecting your flight (but before entering your personal information). Taxes and fees can be astronomical - sometimes up to 40% of the airfare, so don't get too excited by a good rate until you can actually book it.
No paper tickets
It's becoming more prevalent everywhere, and it's true with Mexican airlines too: instead of receiving a paper ticket, you will receive an online reservation code and itinerary to print out. At the ticket counter you give your reservation code and show your ID in order to receive your boarding pass.
Mexican discount airlines may fly out of alternate airports instead of main hubs - many fly in and out of Toluca (50 km from Mexico City) in order to avoid Mexico City's overcrowded Benito Juarez International Airport. A few airlines do offer shuttle service between airport and main destinations.
Changes and cancellations
Most discount airlines allow changes to reservations before the flight, and change fees are reasonable. Check your airline for deadlines for changes. Cancellations are often not allowed, nor is it permitted to change the name on the ticket. These rules vary by airline, so be sure to read all the small print when you book your flight.
Baggage weight limits can be restrictive, so be sure to check that you don't go over. So, pack carefully! If you do exceed the limits, you can expect to pay extra fees. If you know you will go over, it's usually cheaper to pay extra at the time of booking rather than pay at the time of your flight.
Don't get discouraged!
It is usually worth the effort to put in the time searching for flights, because you can find some great deals. Think of it this way: spending the time in front of your computer ahead of time can end up saving you a lot of travel time that you would otherwise spend sitting on the bus. Good luck, and safe travels!