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Editorial: Potential termination for airline agreement threatens Minnesota’s economy, Latino community

The termination does more harm than good to the communities that the agreement serves.
Image by Sarah Mai

Maria Isa Pérez-Vega is a lifelong Minnesotan Latina of Saint Paul and member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she represents District 65B, Saint Paul and West Saint Paul.

A tentative decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to terminate approval of the Joint Cooperation Agreement (JCA) between Delta Air Lines and Aeroméxico could have widespread, negative repercussions on jobs, economic activity, Minneapolis-Saint Paul’s Latino community, University of Minnesota students and programs, as well as consumers who value open, affordable, and accessible air travel to and from Mexico.

The DOT should not remove the chalks on this decision without understanding the full scope of the ramifications.

The JCA has enabled both Delta and Aeroméxico to coordinate aircraft fleets and schedules to expand access to air service between the United States and Mexico. In that time, the JCA has served 45 million passengers, helping to increase travel options and reduce costs for passengers, while providing myriad benefits for local businesses and consumers, creating and supporting jobs and spurring economic growth on both sides of the border.

Now, in response to infractions of the U.S.-Mexico air services agreement by the Government of Mexico, the DOT is taking the unprecedented step of retaliating against U.S. consumers, jobs, air service and the strength of our economy by potentially terminating the JCA. While it is well within the purview of the DOT to ensure Mexico upholds its end of the aviation policy agreement, retaliating on U.S. companies and consumers is unprecedented and will have major ramifications.

Eliminating the JCA would jeopardize nearly two dozen nonstop routes between the United States and Mexico, including a direct route between Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) and Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) in Mexico City that more than 86,000 passengers flew on last year alone. That route only began after the JCA was formalized and would likely face a high risk of being eliminated if the JCA is terminated.

Even the University of Minnesota’s study abroad program in Cuernavaca, Mexico could be negatively impacted by the tentative decision. The University offers students a wonderful opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture, live with a host family, visit historical sites and learn a new language.

Students fly in to Benito Juarez International, an airport that could lose its only direct connection to MSP due to the DOT’s termination of the JCA. While students aren’t responsible for booking their own flights, should the DOT terminate the JCA between Delta Airlines and Aeroméxico, travel between the countries could become much more strenuous and possibly more expensive for students.  

Further, termination of the JCA will represent a significant intrusion by the U.S. government into a private-sector partnership with what is now our nation’s largest trading partner. Mexico is also Minnesota’s second-largest trade partner, with roughly $2.8 billion worth of trade happening between Minnesota and Mexico in 2022. 

Vital, job-creating industries throughout the state rely on the maintaining of a healthy, strong relationship between Minnesota and Mexico. Reducing access and travel between the two could undermine efforts to support and increase trade opportunities that help create jobs and spur economic growth in Minnesota communities. Nationally, termination of the JCA would jeopardize thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism spending while reducing our nation’s GDP by a similar amount.

Not only that, but by reducing travel options between our two countries, cancellation of the JCA would more than likely lead to higher costs for consumers and passengers. This would put a squeeze on all Minnesotans, but it would have a disproportionately larger impact on the Latino community here in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.

Making it harder for our thriving and diverse immigrant community on and around the University to visit loved ones back in their home countries doesn’t seem like a very American thing to do. According to Opendoors, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was comprised of nearly 6,000 international students in 2023.

Limiting access for students to come to Minnesota and return home doesn’t represent Minnesota’s welcoming nature and could turn potential students away. 

The DOT has never proposed to revoke these kinds of international alliances before during a dispute—and it shouldn’t start now. This is a diplomatic issue that requires a diplomatic solution. The JCA has benefitted consumers, created jobs, and supported trade and economic growth in both our countries, and hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the agency will reconsider its highly punitive and deeply misguided decision not to renew approval of the JCA. 

Now more than ever, we should be working to strengthen international relations between the United States and Mexico — not cutting connections that support growth. 

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  • Edward Arias
    Apr 26, 2024 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you for bringing awareness to issues that impact the Latino community in Minnesota.