Trying to get a great low-cost airline deal? Always buy with the local currency!

The USD/MXN Tax — exchange rate variability

José Lara
Sep 2 · 3 min read

While planning a flights to a couple of places in Mexico for later this year, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before: The ticket prices in US dollars never match the Mexican pesos amounts.

This is far from being news, but a little math showed where one gets more bang for their greenback: Fuel surcharges!

Fill 'er up! (thanks to @lebrom390 for the oddly specific royalty-free photo!)

The offenders for this article were Interjet and rival Volaris.

Exact same itineraries, from /en-us website, and local Mexican site. Note the total prices at the bottom.

These numbers feel a bit off…

Naturally, a bit of Googling helped:

Since more math always helps:

Doing the math

Now, let's break that apart using Excel, while doing basic math to get the exchange rate:

As you can see from the above chart, when paying in USD, one gets ripped off on the actual base fare and the value-added tax (VAT).

$16.50 pesos for a dollar!

On the other, hand when paying for that extra fuel, the deal is quite good:

$20.10 ≈ $20.09

Some hypotheses I have around the rate differences include:

  • Processing fees for international credit card processing (baked into the cost of the exchange rate).
  • Commissions (and other) fees that the airlines profit from.
  • Regulation around fuel surcharges and associated taxes (could explain why these are surprisingly fair).

Another interesting thing is the minimal difference between the taxes for departing airports — one being MEX and the other being a much smaller airport.

User experience — as always…

Bad, but almost always part of lower cost airlines… promoting ridiculously low fees if you're willing to not carry luggage, choose a seat, or any other amenities.

Without delving further into a usability study, Volaris' website did not work for me. I kept getting random errors with my credit card. Interjet's didn't work at first, until I navigated to the /en-us part of their website. They forget that people who are fluent in Spanish live outside Mexico, and will try to pay for their tickets through the generic (/es-mx) experience. On second thoughts that's probably what happened with Volaris too.

Wrapping up

In the end, I gave up and paid the extra fee because, at some point it is not worth it to spend hours over the phone with CSRs and banks; I already did that trying to get a refund on the Mexican tourism tax with Delta, and I'd rather enjoy the Unbearable Lightness of Sundays.

José Lara

Written by

Professional flâneur. Curious about societies, individuals, technology, and how they mix. PM@Microsoft on form+function of Azure big data & analytics platform.

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