U.S. downgrades its air safety rating for Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Friday downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating, which restricts new service to U.S. cities and limits airlines ability to carry out marketing agreements.

The Federal Aviation Administration decision was based on Obama administration concerns about Mexican government compliance with international air safety standards.

The FAA was not specific but said in a statement that Mexico has been working with the agency and has made significant improvements in recent months, although it has yet to fully satisfy all concerns.

The downgrade from Category 1 to Category 2 is not based on any safety practices at a specific airline. Category 2 typically means that aviation authorities have fallen short on technical expertise, personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures.

Mexico said it was working on a plan to recover its category 1 status.

“The measures taken by the FAA do not represent a deterioration in flight safety in Mexico,” the transport ministry said in a statement.

Mexico said it was downgraded after FAA agents visited the country and found it did not have enough flight inspectors.

The FAA action would affect carriers like American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp, and Delta Air Lines in the United States and AeroMexico and Mexicana.

Current U.S. service by Mexican carriers is unaffected, but they cannot launch new flights and airline-to-airline marketing practices, like selling seats on each other’s flights in code-share arrangements, are restricted.

AeroMexico is in the SkyTeam marketing alliance led by Delta, while Mexicana is in the Oneworld group headed by American.

Reporting by John Crawley in Washington and Jason Lange in Mexico City, editing by Jackie Frank