Home Airlines Why Hawaiian and United Don’t Fly Over Mexico

Why Hawaiian and United Don’t Fly Over Mexico

by joeheg

In 2021, Hawaiian Airlines began flights between Honolulu and Orlando. As the first non-stop option between the two cities, it would dramatically decrease the travel time for a very long trip. It also caused the price for flights to Hawaii from Orlando to drop significantly

I paid 30,000 Hawaiian Miles plus $5.60 for flights in economy class for the 9-hour flight from HNL-MCO.

When I checked out the flightpath on FlightAware, I noticed a very interesting route. From the California Coast to West Texas, we hugged the US-Mexico Border.

This doesn’t look like the most efficient route. However, I’ve learned that airplanes can take advantage of the curvature of the earth and the jet stream to save fuel and time.

Google Maps shows that the shortest distance on the globe between the points does take a northern path but still cuts over Mexico.

Flights from Houston to Honolulu take a similar path, traveling north towards El Paso and hugging the border.

Yet the shortest path from Houston would also go over Mexico, once leaving Texas.

Why do these flights hug the US side of the border instead of taking the shorter route over Mexico? If you haven’t already guessed, it’s all about money.

When flying over Mexico, aircraft have to pay to use Mexican airspace (it’s often called an overflight fee.). The money goes to pay for the Air Traffic Control systems in the country.

By staying over the US, airlines flying between Hawaii and the mainland avoid paying a fee to Mexico. The added expense because of the increased distance is less than the fee they’d have to pay to fly over Mexico.

This flight path only affects these two flights from the US (that I could find) as even flights from Dallas are far enough north to avoid Mexico.

Deciding on a flight plan requires taking all of these things into account and goes to show how much planning goes into the daily process of running an airline.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

4 comments

joeheg February 28, 2022 - 8:29 pm

Of course, the day after I look at all of the flights from the past week. United already flies to Mexico so it’s less of a hassle for them to pay for one more flight fee. If it’s the better option because of delays, weather or any other number of variables, it makes sense. For Hawaiian who never flies over Mexico, it would be a bigger deal for them to cut a check. 🙂

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Eugene Deimling March 1, 2022 - 4:16 pm

Mercator projection appear to be longer but it is the most direct flight path

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Oren Cohen March 1, 2022 - 4:29 pm

I’ve noticed the Qantas nonstop between DFW and SYD would fly over Mexico as well. Perhaps if the savings in fuel outweigh the Mexican ATC fees it’s worth it

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