If there's a bright spot for travel to Mexico, it might be ethnic travel.
The millions of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who fly across the border to visit family and friends is a growing and steady market, even in an economic downturn.
One sign of that is the expansion of Volaris, the three-year-old low-fare carrier that uses the airport in Toluca, 25 minutes from Mexico City, as its base.
The carrier, which has developed an extensive domestic Mexico route system, is tapping the ethnic market with new flights between Mexico and the U.S.
Volaris started daily service between Toluca and Los Angeles and Guadalajara and Los Angeles on June 30.
It is planning to start service between Toluca and Oakland, Calif., and Guadalajara and Oakland on July 16. And, on Aug. 28, it plans to expand further in Oakland with daily service to Tijuana, with connections to its flights to Cancun, Monterrey, Hermosillo and other destinations south of the border.
"We're trying to be the airline that Mexicans and the Hispanic community look to when they visit their families," said Sai Irene Sanchez Correa, a Volaris spokeswoman.
In a statement, Enrique Beltranena, Volaris managing director said: "Los Angeles represents one of the most attractive U.S. destinations for Mexicans traveling for business or leisure purposes or to visit family and friends. We are certain that now that our outstanding service, the on-time guarantees, and affordable prices have opened up for this destination, we will be favored by our clients."
Volaris' market may expand beyond ethnic travel next year if its planned code-sharing agreement with Southwest Airlines goes ahead.
Southwest recently said it remains committed to a code-sharing partnership with Volaris in 2010, although it has not set a date for its start. It would be Southwest's first step toward offering international destinations. Its only other previous code-share partner was ATA Airlines, a domestic carrier that shut down last year.
Volaris, backed by an investment group that includes Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, started flying in 2006 and serves 21 destinations in Mexico with a fleet of 21 Airbus A320 aircraft.
In other aviation news from Mexico, Maya Island Air, headquartered in Belize, will launch daily roundtrip flights on July 8 between Belize City and Cancun. On that day, it will also start service between Belize City and Guatemala City with a stop en route in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.