Mexico presents a set of unique challenges that aircraft operators must be made aware of before operating into (or over) the country. However, with a little planning, the unfamiliar laws of the Mexican territory will quickly become routine, and you will be able to focus your attention to the incredible cuisine, pristine beaches, and cultural festivals the country has to offer.
One of the strangest pieces of the Mexican puzzle seems to be the SENEAM fees. As operators, we are used to obtaining permission to operate over or within a country, operating normally, and then sometime after, we receive an invoice for en route navigation charges. The burden of calculating airspace usage formulas is typically the responsibility of the country being overflown. Mexico does this differently: They require that the operator checks for any outstanding navigation debt before entering its airspace and then puts the burden of reporting all aircraft movements and paying navigation fees on to the operator. As it stands today, Mexico is the only country in the world that operates in this fashion.
So, what is SENEAM and what are we paying them to do? SENEAM is a Mexican government agency that provides en route navigation and air traffic control (ATC) services within the Mexican airspace. Their goal is to streamline aviation operations, adopt and deploy best practices, and increase safety. They are an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), and like other ANSPs around the world, they expect to be paid for their services.
How does the process work?
When you have a trip that is going to Mexico (both overflight and landing), your service provider queries SENEAM for any outstanding debts for your aircraft. If there are any outstanding debts, regardless of amount, the account must be settled before you are allowed entry into the airspace. If the account is current, you may continue with your operational plans. There is one caveat to the process: Debts follow the airplane, not the operator. So, if you have recently acquired an airplane, and the previous owner did not pay their SENEAM fees, you will be asked to settle all outstanding fees before operating into Mexican airspace.
Now that your account is clean SENEAM will collect its future fees by use of two different methods:
1. Distance-Flown Method
2. Fuel Uplift Method
As the operator, you may select the method that is most effective for your organization.
Method 1: Distance Flown
If you choose the distance flown method, you will need an authorized representative in Mexico who will liaise with SENEAM on your behalf. You will have to determine and document the distance flown in the country’s airspace and proactively submit reports for each flight. Additionally, you will need to calculate the appropriate fees and remit payment through your authorized representative. Fees are assessed for each kilometer flown and are based on the wingspan of the aircraft, as per the following chart:
Wingspan of Aircraft Fee per Kilometer
< 12.5 meters (and all helicopters) 0.23 MXP (0.01 USD)
12.5 – 25.0 meters 1.81 MXP (0.11 USD)
25.0 – 38.0 meters 5.23 MXP (0.32 USD)
> 38.0 meters 7.83 MXP (0.48 USD)
1.000 MXP = 0.061 USD as of 01 Nov 2015
Method 2: Fuel Uplift
Alternatively, you can choose the fuel uplift method, which decreases the self-reporting burden on the operator significantly. All aircraft fuel in Mexico is provisioned and overseen by the governmental agency called Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares, or ASA. When you select this method, ASA takes responsibility for paying the SENEAM fees on your behalf. You simply pay a flat-rate fee per fuel uplift to satisfy all of your SENEAM requirements. The fees are not subject to value-added tax (VAT).
Wingspan of Aircraft Fee per Uplift
< 10.0 meters (and all helicopters) 104.00 MXP (6.30 USD)
10.0 – 11.1 meters 149.00 MXP (9.03 USD)
11.1 – 16.7 meters 224.00 MXP (13.58 USD)
16.7 – 25.0 meters 4,143.00 MXP (251.08 USD)
25.0 – 38.0 meters 12,020.00 MXP (728.47 USD)
> 38.0 meters 18,015.00 MXP (1,091.79 USD)
1.000 MXP = 0.061 USD as of 01 Nov 2015
So, what if you don’t land in Mexico (i.e., you are only overflying), and you are set up with the fuel uplift method? In this case, the burden comes back on you to calculate the distance, report the flight, calculate the fees, and make payment to SENEAM. Your service provider can track and settle these payments on your behalf.
Which Method Should You Choose?
Each operator is different. Some operators will find it more economical and easier to use the fuel uplift method. Others who overfly the country more than they land in it may find the distance flown method more attractive. You should take a moment to look at your historical flying in Mexico, and what plans you have for transiting the area over the upcoming months. Run a few trips through both methods, and you will easily come up with the method that is best for your operation.
Additional questions or comments are welcome. Please contact Ryan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 281-724-5400.