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The ribbon cutting to celebrate the inaugural American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Mexico City. (Peter Fitzpatrick)

American Airlines takes first flight to Mexico City from Philadelphia International Airport

Mexico City becomes the 122nd destination out of Philadelphia International Airport, which usually sees around 450 flights depart daily.

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Walking through Terminal A-West at Gate A14 on Thursday afternoon, you might have noticed the sounds of laughter, Mariachi music echoing through the walkway, the smell of quesadillas in the air or balloons in the colors of the Mexican Flag. It was all in celebration of the inaugural flight of American Airlines number 497 leaving from Philadelphia International Airport to Mexico City. It is the first time in decades that there has been a nonstop flight leaving Philadelphia heading directly into the Mexican capital.

Rochelle Cameron, CEO of the Philadelphia International Airport, mentioned how the airport determines new direct international destinations.

“We look at the numbers and try to determine how many people are going back and forth from each individual destination. There is a city that stood out of all of our international destinations and that was Mexico City,” said Cameron. “We needed to provide to the passengers and residents of this region non-stop service to Mexico City.”

Alicia Kerber, Consul of Mexico for Philadelphia, feels that this service could be the springboard for more opportunities between the two cities.

“We hope that this flight to Mexico City will represent an improvement to exchange more students, scientists, and entrepreneurs," said Kerber. “We want to know our neighbors. We are linked by history, we are linked by our community and we are linked by many traditions.”  

Kerber made clear that every year there are 20 million documented tourists from Mexico that visit the United States. This brings around $20 billion of spending power to the country. With all this celebration surrounding her, the recent actions of President Trump were not far from her thoughts.

“When you visit Mexico, you will be more than welcome with your complete family. We will not separate you from your kids,” she said. 

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez believes that the timing of this service to Mexico City could not have been better.

“At this moment in time there is no better symbolic opportunity than this exchange of what this flight means,” said Quinones-Sanchez. "We are resisting the notion that we are not united both geographically and as human beings.”

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The economic benefits that the Mexican community has brought to Philadelphia have not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the Councilwoman: “You cannot go into any part of Philadelphia where the Mexican community has not made a mark with their hard work and dedication.”

With all this fanfare, what did the passengers of this historic flight think? Ryan Baker & Mary Saxton had no idea this was taking place. They were just trying to get away from Philly for a few days.

“We didn’t know about this when we bought the tickets," said Baker, “It’s cool. It brightens our day a little bit. I’m excited about going on vacation.”

Saxton felt the mood today was a positive change of pace compared to the immigration protest that grabbed headlines the day before.  

Soledad Menchaca, a Drexel medical student from California enjoys the convenience of having a direct flight to Mexico City.

“I’m a medical student and whenever I travel to Mexico it takes me a long time. I would have to travel to Dallas, Texas, spend the night there and leave the next day,” she said. “When I saw this flight coming up and it only took six hours to Mexico, it was perfect especially since I am only going for the weekend. It’s very convenient.”

Menchaca also felt that this event is a great change of pace compared to what she has seen on television over the last few weeks.

“I think for people who immigrated and that have roots in Mexico, it is a comforting feeling to know that we are welcome, and we are not trying to exclude people,” Menchaca exclaimed. “I’m Mexican, I grew up in Mexico, moved to California and I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not a bad person, I’m not selling drugs, I’m not doing anything wrong. I think there are a lot of people like myself who are coming here to better themselves. People need to get to know everyone and not get the one-sided view the media tries to portray especially towards Mexicans. I have to speak for my people.”

The first flight of American Airlines to Mexico began 75 years ago on September 8, 1942, with a flight from Dallas, Texas to Mexico City. Mexico City was also American Airlines’ second International destination. There are over 1000 workers directly employed from Mexico by the airline. That is the highest number of employees hired by the airlines anywhere outside of the United States.

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