As a fairly regular flyer with the two biggest and best budget airlines in Mexico, Viva Aerobus and Volaris, I like to consider myself an authority figure on their prices, service and, above all, punctuality. You might be thinking ‘well, whichever is cheapest is obviously the best’. Amateurs! Price is one of the biggest factors, but don’t con yourself into thinking it’s the most important factor; as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. What you save on the ticket might cost you elsewhere and this applies to both of these airlines in equal measure. Anyway, with that in mind, here’s my semi-serious, semi-tongue-in-cheek, and generally pretty arbitrary guide to the best Mexican budget airline.
BEST MEXICAN BUDGET AIRLINE
As far as price goes, and especially on the route I’m most familiar with (Mexico City-Monterrey), Viva Aerobus takes first place on 9 out of 10 occasions, only beaten when Volaris has a really decent sale on. Do make sure to check both sites though, because when buying Viva Aerobus tickets online, the ticket price you see doesn’t include the fuel surcharge (which at the time of writing is MXN$135 each way). So, if Viva’s price is only a little lower than Volaris’ at first glance, it might actually be cheaper to go with them.
Viva Aerobus have the annoying habit of checking the added extras for you, which forces you to go through and unclick the ones you don’t want. This is incredibly annoying. (UPDATE AUGUST 2017: They no longer do this, so you actually don’t have to uncheck everything anymore.) Volaris doesn’t do this though, meaning they definitely take the prize for common decency.
Another point on which Volaris takes first place is in seat selection. While Viva Aerobus makes you choose a seat when purchasing (if you’re getting your tickets late, the only options left are often ones you have to pay for), Volaris’ website allows you to skip that part. Instead, you can just choose when you check in.
Speaking of which, buying a ticket with Volaris means you can check in online and save time at the airport. With Viva, if you choose their cheapest package (which everyone obviously does), you have to brave the airport queues to check in. *Update: From March 6th 2017, you now have to have your Viva Aerobus boarding pass printed or on your phone before arriving at the airport*
Navigability of Website
It seems like a minor issue, but with budget airlines (who will without fail get you to accidentally click on added extras to bump up your price) it really is an important factor to consider.
Viva Aerobus also wins this fight I’m afraid to say, because although you have to expand each potential added extra and unclick what you don’t want, it’s far easier to know you’ve unclicked everything.
Volaris’ website, on the other hand, is always a tiny bit glitchy and awkwardly laid out, making you scroll down to the very bottom of the page in order to move to the next screen. Nothing major, but bad enough to be irritating when you just want to buy tickets and get on with your life.
Who cares? It’s a budget airline that flies (for the most part) nationally. If you can afford to buy underwhelming, overpriced food on either Viva or Volaris, you can afford to fly with Interjet or Aeromexico.
HAHAHA, Volaris wins this round. Viva Aerobus is hands down the worst airline for punctuality I have EVER travelled on. And they have the gall to play you a recorded track if you do land on time, praising themselves for their excellent service. It’s all very self-masturbatory if you ask me, and FYI, I’ve only ever heard it played once. (For the record, I travel on Viva Aerobus about once every three weeks).
I won’t lie to you, neither Viva Aerobus nor Volaris have a whole lot of legroom unless you fork out in the added extras section for a Premier seat near the front or next to the emergency exits. But who wants to pay more for something on a budget airline? Not I.
If I had to award legroom to one or the other, Viva or Volaris, I’d have to say that Volaris takes it, simply because on two occasions I’ve had an entire row of seats to myself (and I know plenty of others this has happened to).
Class of the Clientele
I’m not talking about the social class of the travellers on board each flight, just their overall common decency and knowledge of budget flying etiquette. For reference, budget flying etiquette includes things like:
- Middle seat gets both armrests, obviously.
- Under no circumstances should you recline, because nobody has any legroom at all. (whatever happened to we’re all in this together?)
- Shove your bags in the overhead locker as fast as possible and sit the hell down so everyone else can get on.
In short, make yourself as panicked and uncomfortable as possible, so no one judges you. (I’ll admit, this could be the Brit in me talking).
Weirdly, Viva Aerobus takes this one. I’ve had far more flights with them where all the passengers seemed in on the unwritten social conduct rules, whereas everyone on Volaris is far too recline-happy for my liking. On my most recent Volaris flight, all three seats in front of me decided they just needed to have a nap at the same time.
Viva Aerobus has the whole patriotic thing going for it with their red, green and white colour scheme, but while to some that screams Mexican, to me it screams Christmas.
Volaris, in contrast, has a very attractive purple colour scheme, that even includes matching purple pinnies for the crew when they bring out the food trolley. So, if you like your budget airline colour scheme pleasing on the eye, Volaris is the one for you without a doubt.
The category for all those extra bits and pieces that are kind of unimportant but still deserve a mention. I have to say, Volaris easily wins this for the simple fact that their planes have names! Yes, each Volaris aeroplane has a name printed on the side of it. I forever dream of the day I spot one called Lauren, but I won’t hold my breath.
WHICH IS THE BEST MEXICAN BUDGET AIRLINE?
Based on the entirely subjective and anecdotal evidence presented above, I’d have to say that overall Volaris takes the prize for Mexico’s best budget airline. Having said that, I always seem to end up on Viva for one simple reason: it is cheaper, and I’m a sucker for a bargain…even if I do arrive two hours late.