MEXICO CITY, Oct 26 - Mexico is looking to reduce an airport usage fee by 8%-12%, a top official told Reuters late on Wednesday, providing clarity into the government's plans following airport groups' complaints of "unilateral" changes being made to their operations.
Mexico is aiming to reduce the airport-usage fee, also known as the TUA, but "it's still up for negotiation," Deputy Transportation Minister Rogelio Jimenez Pons said.
Travelers pay the airport-usage fee as part of the cost of their plane ticket and operators pocket the funds. It adds about $22 to more than $60 to the price of an international flight and about $8 to $40 for a domestic ticket, depending on the airport.
The reduction of the fees, some of the highest in Latin America, is meant to cut ticket costs for consumers and boost air travel in the country, Jimenez Pons said. Fees should be cut by the first quarter of next year, he added.
Jimenez Pons clarified that the usage fee for government-controlled airports, which includes the country's busiest, the Mexico City International Airport, are also set to be lowered.
The reduced tariffs are part of an overhaul on the five-year plans airport operators have with the government. ASUR, which operates nine airports in southeast Mexico, said earlier this week the draft for its next plan had to be scrapped after the tariff change announcement.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has long attacked airlines for pocketing Mexicans' hard-earned money, and has recently taken aim at airport operators as well.
The president is set to launch a military-run commercial airline, Mexicana, at the end of the year. He has bragged that ticket prices will be lower than current market rates.
In addition to the lowered usage fees, Mexico's transportation ministry has said it will almost double what it charges operators for its concessions to run the airports.
The ministry said the change, from 5% to 9%, applies to operators' revenues. Analysts say it applies to revenues minus construction services.
The hike must still be passed in Mexico's senate, Jimenez Pons conceded. If it becomes law, airport operators may need to pay an extra $118.58 million a year, according to Reuters calculations based on 2022 earnings.
Airport groups may complain about the change, Jimenez Pons said, "But they won't stop making money. They'll make less, but they won't stop making money."
The transportation ministry had said in the Oct. 19 announcement that operators' finances would not be impacted. It also said that the hike would lower consumer costs, though Jimenez Pons said that was not the case.
($1 = 18.3648 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Kylie Madry; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)