May 27, 2021
All the griping I’ve done over the “GMST.” That’s the Generic Meaningless Swoosh Thing, as coined by a reader some years ago, the omnipresent and (normally) vapid flourish of the current-day airline livery. Have a look at the paint jobs of El Al, PIA, or United for a sense of how depressing a GMST can be. Every so often, though, you find one that works.
Behold the uniform of AeroMexico. Here we see a livery that’s sleek and modern on the one hand, yet still traditional. While most airlines trade one for the other, here they share the same canvas. Sure, it incorporates a GMST, but in this case it smooths things out rather than drawing attention to itself. Actually there are two, if you count the swoop beneath the tail, and they play against each other nicely (though I’m not so fond of the lighter blue accenting). Yet the look centers neither on a Swoosh nor any other element of novelty. The focal point is the carrier’s Aztec warrior logo, which it has used for decades, proudly adorning the tail.
Few things can make a 737 look good, but this livery does. It’s dignified, distinctive and handsome.
I bring this up during the same week that the Federal Aviation Administration announced it is downgrading Mexico’s air safety rating. The move drops Mexico’s designation from a “Category 1” to a “Category 2.” While the downgrade doesn’t ban flights outright, it prevents Mexican airlines from adding any service to U.S. cities, and prohibits American carriers from selling code-share seats aboard those from Mexico.
The FAA, whose penchant for safety is outdone only by a fondness for annoying acronyms, has come up with the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program to judge standards of other countries, using criteria based on ICAO guidelines. Classifications are awarded to nations themselves and not to individual airlines. Category 1 status goes to those who meet the mark, and Category 2 to those who “do not provide safety oversight of air carrier operators in accordance with the minimum safety standards.” Whatever that means exactly. Because the categories pertain to countries and not specific airlines, and because the restrictions apply unilaterally (American carriers are free to increase flights into Mexico), IASA has its critics.
For what it’s worth, on a chiefly anecdotal level, I fly to Mexico all the time, and while security screening for crewmembers is a little overzealous, I notice few or no meaningful deficiencies, whether it’s infrastructure, air traffic control, or anything else.
This couldn’t come at a worse time, as passenger levels between the U.S. and its southern neighbor are now higher than they were before the pandemic. It’s also a black eye to Mexico, which has a long and proud aviation heritage.
AeroMexico is today the nation’s biggest carrier, but let’s not forget Mexicana. One of the oldest airlines in the world, Mexicana flew throughout its home country and North America. Its demise, in 2010, left AeroMexico at center stage, and spawned a number of low-cost upstarts, the largest of which, at the moment, are Volaris and the grotesquely named Viva Aerobus.