Mexico’s VivaAerobus: the ‘super low-cost’ is to be even more super

“We pretend to be a very nice experience, but our average flight time is just 1 ½ hours so we don’t have to be,” stated Fernando Estrada, VivaAerobus’ Vice President Strategy, Business Development and Ancillary Revenue, during a presentation at World Routes 2019.

And it’s true. With its fleet of 36 aircraft – all A320ceos and neos – VivaAerobus focuses overwhelmingly on short domestic flights. This year, 95% of its total seats are to/from Mexican cities, with the airline possessing a 14% share of the domestic market.  In all, it serves 47 cities and operates 100 domestic routes and 18 international.

Source: OAG Mapper.

Its domestic focus revolves around convincing people to fly instead of travelling by bus.  After all, Mexico is big: it’s the world’s 14th largest country by area and its seventh by population.  And it’s also very much developing.  Interestingly, while Mexico’s GDP/capita ($9.70) is higher than countries such as Brazil, Peru and Colombia, its flights/capita (0.38) is lower.  “Mexico has a lot of opportunities,” enthused Estrada. 

For VivaAerobus, this opportunity is in the form of bus users, for there are over three billion bus journeys in Mexico each year.  Estrada said that 300 million of these travel by “high class” buses which are generally much better and more expensive.  It is these people that VivaAerobus is targeting and it achieves average revenue per passenger of just USD$51 – of which nearly half is ancillaries.

VivaAerobus’ strong 95% focus on the domestic market differs notably from its fellow Mexican operators, most of which focus much more on international markets, at least as a % of their total output: 

  • Volaris: 81%;
  • Interjet: 70%
  • Aeromexico: 64%

Its short sector lengths – average 647 miles domestically and 741 system-wide – results in it achieving 6.6 sectors per aircraft per day.  And, as a result of its 183-seat average capacity, to flying over 1,208 seats per aircraft per day.  VivaAerobus’ result is, Estrada said, significantly above competitors and renowned LCCs/ULCCs used for benchmarking:

  • easyJet: 939
  • Ryanair: 925
  • Spirit: 808
  • Interjet: 693

After years of shallow growth, mainly focused on Monterrey, the year 2015 marked VivaAerobus’ ‘restart’, with nearly eight million additional seats added since then (CAGR: 18%).  This roughly corresponded the introduction of its first A320, which played a key role in VivaAerobus’ seats per sector increasing from 151 in 2014 to 165 in 2015 and onward to the present.  

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

By 2025, Estrada says that VivaAerobus will have 66 aircraft.  And to help to further reduce CASK and available seats and to drive ancillaries, 40 of these will be A321neos.  This “super low-cost,” as Estrada called it, will be even more super.


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