Every now and then, I see questions by American 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 I won’t use them based on principal.
Low prices; decent leg room (for me: I’m 5’4″); 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).
Just an okay website; constant effort during the booking process to get you to buy upgrades (but all airlines do this now).
Strict baggage rules (they do measure your ‘small’ cabin bags and medium bags like roll-on small suitcases cost extra).
Decent leg room (compared to U.S. airlines) friendly service; easy-to-navigate website in English; great iPhone app.
Volaris was priced a tad higher than Interjet; constant effort during the booking process to get you to buy upgrades (but all airlines do this now).
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; strict baggage rules (they measure your ‘small’ cabin bags and medium bags like roll-on small suitcases cost extra).
Mexican airlines: 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, a 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.
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.
Final thoughts before takeoff
When I see the questions on Facebook groups, they are usually asked by Americans who are hesitant to use Mexican airlines because they’ve always used American (or Canadian) airlines. I’m here to tell ya – you will save money and enjoy your flight as much — or more than — the flights back home.
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.
(This post was updated on November 1, 2019. Volaris is still the industry leader in budget fares, but prices have gone up since this post was first written in 2017. Both Volaris and Interjet expanded routes in those two years.)
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