International commercial cargo flight operations increased during the contingency. Are there alternatives to avoid Mexico City Airport customs saturation?

In September 2014, Mexico City International Airport (AICM) was declared saturated, for its more than 60 operations per minute.

Three months after the contingency to curb COVID-19 started, the saturation was declared over for passenger traffic. However, cargo movements are still complicated at customs.

Data from Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport shows a record of international commercial flights operations at the AICM between 2019 and 2020: there were 850 operations in May 2020, 24% more than in April 2020 (683 operations) and 29% more than May 2019 (657 operations).

Since the start of the contingency, in April 2020, the number of international cargo commercial flight operations has grown between 3% and almost 30%.

A table show the percentual variation between the amount of cargo flights operation on several months in 2019 and 2020

At Europartners Group, we work hard to be more than a supplier: we want to be your strategic ally in logistics. Our teams’ expertise is at your service in quality content on our blog, social networks and special events.

Webinar speakers were Gisela García, EP Group customs services expert, Alexander Katsouris, EP Automotive director and Rouven Blau, Leader Route development for Mexico and Latin America

In November 2020, we organized a webinar with details of the air import process to Mexico, and what we can do to speed up the process.

In this article, you’ll find all the information shared in the webinar, a terminology glossary and the webinar recording.


The traditional process

Graphics show the current air import process, which we'll describe next on the text below.

The infographic above summarizes how the air import process is handled after the arrival of the aircraft on one of AICM’s platforms. It’s not an easy process. First, the Tax Administration Service (SAT) must issue a permit to access the cargo and move it using a tractor and some dollies.

The cargo is taken through two revision arcs –a X-ray arc and a gamma-ray arc– prior to arrival at the warehouse.

Next, we’ll detail the current air import process to Mexico following steps:

1. Cargo arrives in warehouse

Each airline has a warehouse assigned to perform ground handling.

A warehouse can serve more than one airline, impacting the cargo unloading and moving time to customs.

Another detail also affects the process. Let’s give you an example: a 777 or 747 aircraft arrives from Europe with between 37 and 39 positions (containers or cargo pallets). Considering that a tractor has the capacity to drag five dollies, it must go back and forward at least eight times to unload an entire flight.

2. Pallet inventory

When the cargo finally arrives at the warehouse, the pallets are broken down to be segmented according to the master’s number and to determine where it should be stored.

3. Documents collection

Warehouses have representatives of freight agents who coordinate the division of the merchandise according to the transfer ballots.

This cargo maneuver must be paid separately.

4. Transfer

The whole process can take a few hours. However, there are “peak days” at AICM customs –Monday for imports, Friday for exports– and other days when more cargo flights arrive, causing the process to be longer. In addition, there are warehouses that are still not working with their 100% of their teams, due to the contingency to slow down the COVID-19, resulting in more delays.

Warehouse transfer has two great aggregated values:

  1. Concentrating all the cargo from a freight forwarder like Europartners into a single warehouse saves customs agents time, because do not have to go to from place to place to claim their goods.
  2. Have full control and visibility of the cargo.

Any incident (an irregularity, a damage, a breakdown) is immediately reported.

5. Cargo availability

In this step, the cargo availability is communicated to the customer, who must inform who is the customs agent responsible for receiving the documentation.

We will detail the entire customs clearance process a few lines below.

6. Revalidation

This is the transfer of rights of the cargo step, in which the house BL is issued.

7. Domestic transit to another airport (departure and arrival)

This is an additional service, offered to save time, avoiding the saturation of the AICM customs and the collapse of some warehouses.

When the cargo’s final destination is another city in Mexico with airport, a supplier authorized by the SAT for the handling, storage and custody of foreign trade goods takes over the material and transports it to the next airport, so that the customs procedure is carried out there.

All with real-time 24/7 tracking.

Click here to learn more about transit service benefits.

How to make the import process more agile?

At Europartners Group, we are constantly working to find solutions that save you:

  1. Time
  2. Costs

Bringing cargo to Mexico using air freight solutions, we have achieved that eliminating the transfer stage.

We can do this with our consolidated service from Germany.

Our office in Germany receives the cargo and our staff can assemble the complete pallet.

For our customers, this is guarantee that:

  1. The cargo is handled by highly specialized professionals.
  2. No one will touch the cargo until Europartners teams in Mexico deconsolidate it for the confrontation, mitigating loss of merchandise risks.
  3. The space is already purchased with the airline, ensuring the cargo boarding.
  4. You won’t find out in the airport that you have problems with overload (payload), because when we consolidate the cargo in Europartners’ Germany offices, our teams organize the pallets according to all countries and airlines’ specifications.

The fundamental change

The process differs from the traditional one from the assembly of the PMC pallet in Germany. The Master BL is already issued with the PMC numbers and its position on the aircraft.

Thus, we can select the cargo on arrival, so that it is not unloaded in the airline’s warehouse, but in our exclusive warehouse, saving the inventory process time.

On a passenger flight, this means between 4 and 6 hours less; on a cargo flight, up to 12 hours can be saved in the process.

In our warehouse, the process of inventorying a single pallet is much more agile and we can even perform the revalidation process in advance.

This way, at the first hour of the next day, the cargo is available for collection.

Customs agents are exempt from paying transfer fees, get the documentation in hand on time, even for critical cargo, and also get access to the merchandise without restrictions or having to go somewhere else.

Another advantage when handling critical cargo is the possibility of having the merchandise directly in the inventory area immediately after the pallet is broken down.

We offer three weekly frequencies for the consolidation service from Germany to Mexico: on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays.

Advantages of our import process:

  • Own office within the AICM customs office
  • 24/7-365 teams
  • Personal and dedicated attention
  • Confirmation photos
  • Consolidations is handled in a single pallet
  • Less handling = less risks
  • Pallets organized by our own teams in Germany
  • Certainty of effectiveness
  • Ability to handle internal transits to Mexico’s major airports

Air import clearance challenges

Air import clearance challenges, which we describe in the text below

To find ways to speed up imports, it is important to know the main steps taken at customs:

1. Consignee’s registry

The process is simple. It is only necessary to request the tax documents and the order checked.

2. Commercial documents

The crucial document in this step is the data sheet (ficha técnica), that helps to determines the tariff code (fracción arancelaria) that indicates the obligations at customs. When importing a product for the first time, we recommend sharing the data sheet before boarding.

3. “Previo”

Pre-customs clearance inspection performed by the customs agent. Its objective is to compare the information declared on the invoice and/or packing list with the goods that were received, as well as to obtain the necessary elements to determine the tariff classification of the goods.

4. Filling customs’ documents

Fulfilling the shipping information online on SAT Single Window (VUCEM), also to prepare the order (pedimiento).

5. Duties payment and clearance

Our best recommendation is to have a bank account enabled for Electronic Foreign Trade Payment (PECE), so that the customs agency can take the amount necessary to cover the payment of taxes.

If the customs agency do not have access to an account, it is likely to ask you to make an advance payment based on estimated values.

6. Customs inspections

You can learn the whole process clicking here. After the module operator performs the documentary-electronic inspection in the analysis or the risk management and remote consultation system, the merchandise has two alternatives:

  1. Free clearance – the cargo can be immediately withdrawn from the tax precinct
  2. Customs requests an inspection to verify that all restrictions and regulations marked by law are complied with.

Meeting all requirements and collaborating with authorities is critical to speed the import process and to the security of foreign trade. Requirements can be product certifications, labeling standards and other consumer protection devices.

Europartners teams recommend: “Developing a mutual trust relation with you customs expert, based on collaboration and results, is key to accomplish an attuned customs clearance.”

If you need support with your air imports, contact us right now.


AICM – Mexico City International Airport

Revision Arches – X-ray and gamma-ray devices used to inspect cargo

Breaking down – Process in which the cargo pallets are opened to compare the merchandise with the documentation issued at origin (see “confrontation” and “cargo manifest”).

Confrontation – Procedure used to review and determine whether there is damage or some of goods are missing and, when necessary, to process the complaint with the competent authority.

COVE – The Electronic Value Proof is an electronic file (XML) designed to substitute the crossover documents (proformas invoices, packing lists, etc.), as well as documents that cover the value of the goods (tax invoices, import invoices, referral notes, value declarations, etc.) and eliminate the physical presentation of all of these.

Dolly – A small flat platform with wheels that is used to hold or transport heavy objects.

Ground handling – services performed by airlines with ground cargo.

House BL (House Bill of Lading) – Document notifying the customs agency to give the order to begin its procedure.

Cargo manifest – Document issued at origin detailing the cargo transported by an aircraft.

Master BL (Master Bill of Lading) – Documents the bill of lading between the cargo agency and the airline.

PECE – Electronic Payment of Foreign Trade, a system for the payment of contributions derived from import and export operations, which entered into force in Mexico in 2019.

Pedimiento (Request) – Document that verifies to customs the legal stay of the goods in Mexico and their compliance with tax obligations in the field of foreign trade.

PMC – ULD is also known as P6P, one of the most popular pallets used for air transport of goods on A300, A310, A340, B747, B767 and B777 aircrafts. It can carry up to 6,800 kg, depending on the aircraft. Its external dimensions are 317.5 cm (125 inches) long and 242.8 cm (96 inches) wide, with an internal volume of 11.15 m3 (32 cubic feet, 10 cubic inches).

Previo – Data sheet of the exported product produced and shared with the customs agent prior to shipment of the cargo.

SAT – Mexico Tax Administration Service

Positions – Divisions of the cargo area of an aircraft that can be delimited by containers or pallets. Quality freight forwarders, such as Europartners Group, have guaranteed spaces negotiated with airlines.

ULD – Unit Load Device.

You can watch the full session here: