Every now and then, I see questions by travelers, expats, and retirees about Mexican airlines posted in Facebook groups. They want to know what company is best, if it’s safe, what companies are on-time, and what other people have experienced using foreign commercial airlines.
My answer is always the same: don’t worry and just do it. I have found Volaris and Interjet both to be safe, clean, friendly, easy, and mostly on time in my experience. And, most importantly, as early retirement budget travelers we find them to be affordable.
Volaris and Interjet have a few differences, but they are relatively minor. Viva Aerobus used a deceptive practice that caused me to vow never to use them – based on principal.
Pros: decent leg room (yes, leg room!); friendly service; free beer or soda and a small bag of chips – even on flights just 40 minutes long; a bathroom for women only (yay!! because boys are messy).
Neutral points: just an okay website; constant effort during the booking process to get you to buy upgrades (but all airlines seem to do this now).
Cons: tightening up of baggage rules are underway (they actually measure your ‘small’ cabin bags and medium bags like roll-on small suitcases cost extra)).
Pros: good leg room (the space stunned us compared to U.S. airlines) friendly service; easy-to-navigate website in English; good iPhone app.
Neutral points: prices seem to be a tad higher than Interjet’s prices, but they are not prohibitive; constant effort during the booking process to get you to buy upgrades (but all airlines seem to do this now).
Cons: At least a dozen emails before flights asking you to upgrade your seat or buy travel insurance (some are in Spanish, but you can click to convert to English); no drinks or snacks on short flights, tightening up baggage rules are underway (they actually measure your ‘small’ cabin bags and medium bags like roll-on small suitcases cost extra).
Which is better – Volaris or Interjet?
We would fly either airline again. In fact, we’ve flown each a few times over the last couple of years. A few of the flights were Tijuana to Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta to Huatulco, Chetumal to Mexico City, Mexico City to other cities around the country.
Passengers walk on and off the plane and over the tarmac to get to terminals in the smaller airports. At Zihuatanejo’s airport, both Volaris and Interject had field crew and airport staff stand outside and wave goodbye to the plane! That’s kind of sweet, right? We saw both airlines do this – and hold signs – but our flight that time leaving Zihua happened to be Volaris, thus the Volaris sign in the picture below.
But if I had to pick one for comfort, I’d pick Volaris. Even with those pesky emails after you book a flight, an website booking process in English with no hiccups is priceless. Okay, not priceless, but it’s a great comfort – no stress in the booking process. That’s easily worth another $5-$10 in total cost. Also, that app is well done, for an airline app. Plus, the leg room was better on Volaris — even though I’m only 5’4″, I like my space.
That said, if it’s a short flight, Interjet wins simply because of the (usually lower) price.
It’s worth a mention that Volaris and Interjet do not both fly into some of Mexico’s smaller airports. For example, only Volaris flew into Huatulco when we traveled there.
Why I won’t fly with VivaAerobus
One time over the last year I checked out the VivaAeorbus options for one of our flights. VA listed prices lower than any other airline so I started going through the booking process, only to find out you got the lowest cost advertised only if you applied – and were accepted – for their credit card.
Say what?! I couldn’t believe it. I called customer service to see if I missed something on their Spanish website (the English conversion wasn’t working). The representative spoke mediocre English at best and confirmed the lowest price for that particular fare was if you applied for VA’s credit card.
The price was a good 30 percent lower than the others, but I wasn’t about to apply for the card, and Tedly wasn’t gonna apply for the card. Without applying for the card, the flight was still about $10 cheaper for each ticket — but I refuse to do business with a company that’s that sneaky and uses that kind of bait and switch trickery.
Sure, I’ll book a flight when my basic seat costs extra – I’ll play that game – but when you advertise a price only to tell me three-quarters of the way through the booking process that I have to apply for your credit card to get that price —- that’s just downright wrong. Buh-bye VivaAerobus.
Final thoughts before takeoff
When I see the questions on Facebook groups, they are usually asked by people hesitant to use a Mexican airline because they’ve always used American or Canadian companies. I’m here to tell ya – you will save money and enjoy your flight as much — or more than — the flights back home.
We are looking at using other airlines in the future once we leave Mexico – including Norwegian, Wow Air, and Vueling. Using Mexican airlines for the last couple of years proved to me that foreign companies do just as good a job, if not even better.
Of course, planes are not our only method for travel – we’ve done trains, shuttles to borders, and buses in Mexico and Guatemala. We will continue to use those methods of transportation as well once we leave this hemisphere, though it does appear flights around Europe are extremely cheap – cheaper than trains or buses in many cases.
As much as I dislike what air travel does to the planet, I self-justify my use of planes like this: the plane is going to fly with or without my ass in the seat, so I may as well add my weight to the journey. I want to explore the planet – before it’s too late.
(*Note, as always, this is an unbiased and honest review. I get nothing in return for reviewing my experiences with these companies, which is not always the case with most travel bloggers.)