The majority of foreign visitors reach Oaxaca by air, and a large fraction of those through Mexico City. There, travelers transfer to flights bound for Oaxaca City , Puerto Escondido , or Bahías de Huatulco–Puerto Ángel. Two possible exceptions are Mexicana Airlines and American Airlines flights, which in the past have connected (but at this writing do not) directly with Huatulco  from Los Angeles and Dallas, respectively.
Most air travelers launch their Oaxaca vacations through the Mexico City gateways of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, or Tijuana. Nearly all flights involve an airplane change at the large, super-busy Mexico City Airport. (At this writing, three flights go from the United States Oaxaca-direct: Two are the quick 2.5-hour Oaxaca-direct Huatulco -direct Continental Airlines flights from Houston; the other is the new Avolar Airlines Tijuana–Oaxaca flight).
Although only a few scheduled flights go directly to Mexico City from the northern United States and Canada, charters do, especially during the winter. In locales near Boston, Buffalo, Calgary-Edmonton, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Montreal, Ottawa, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, consult a travel agent or website for charter flight options. Be aware that charter reservations, which often require fixed departure and return dates and provide minimal cancellation refunds, decrease your flexibility.
Air travelers can save money by shopping around, through independent ticket agents and the airlines, both by telephone and the Internet. Don’t be bashful about trying for the best price. Make it clear to the airline or agent that you’re interested in a bargain. Ask the right questions. Are there special incentive, advance-payment, night, midweek, tour- package, or charter fares? Peruse the ads in your Sunday newspaper travel section for bargain-oriented travel agencies. An agent usually costs you no money, although some don’t like discounted tickets because their fee often depends on a percentage of ticket price. Nevertheless, many agents will work to get you a bargain.
You also may be able to save money by booking an air/hotel package. Mexicana (tel. 800/531-9321, www.mexicana.com ) and Aeromexico (tel. 800/237-6639, www.aeromexico.com ) and most others routinely offer Oaxaca air/hotel packages.
A few airlines fly across the Atlantic directly to Mexico City. These include Lufthansa, which connects directly from Frankfurt, and Aeroméxico, which connects directly from Paris and Madrid. In Mexico City, several connections, including Oaxaca City , Puerto Escondido , and Huatulco , are available, mostly via Mexicana, Aeroméxico, Magnicharter, Aviacsa and affiliated airlines.
From Latin America, Aeroméxico connects directly with Mexico City, from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; and Lima, Peru. A number of other Latin American flag carriers also fly directly to Mexico City. From there, easy Oaxaca connections are available via Mexicana Airlines and Aeroméxico Airlines and their respective affiliate airlines, Aerocaribe and Aeromar.
Very few flights cross the Pacific directly to Mexico, except for Japan Airlines, which connects Osaka-Tokyo to Mexico City, via Vancouver. More commonly, travelers from Australasia routinely transfer at Los Angeles, Phoenix, or San Francisco for connections to Mexico City, thence Oaxaca.
Tropical and temperate Oaxaca makes it easy to pack light. (See the Packing Checklist sidebar.) Veteran tropical travelers often condense their luggage to carry-ons only. Airlines routinely allow a carry-on (not exceeding 45 inches in combined length, width, and girth) and a small book bag or purse. Thus relieved of heavy burdens, your trip will become much simpler. You’ll avoid possible luggage loss and long baggage check-in lines by being able to check in directly at the boarding gate.
Even if you can’t avoid having to check luggage, loss of it needn’t ruin your vacation. Always carry your irreplaceable items in the cabin with you. These should include all cameras, checks, credit cards, eyeglasses, money, passport, prescription drugs, tickets, and traveler’s keys.
At the X-ray security check, insist that your film and cameras be hand-inspected. Regardless of what attendants claim, repeated X-ray scanning will fog any film, especially the sensitive ASA 400 and 1,000 high-speed varieties. (You can assure both protection and hand inspection for your film by packing it in the special lead-lined film bags available in any good camera store.)
Travelers packing lots of expensive baggage, or who (because of illness, for example) may have to cancel a nonrefundable flight or tour, might consider buying travel insurance. Travel agents routinely sell packages that include baggage, trip cancellation, and default insurance. Baggage insurance covers you beyond the customary $1,250 domestic, $400 international baggage liability limits, but check with your carrier. Trip cancellation insurance pays if you must cancel your prepaid trip, while default insurance protects you if your carrier or tour agent does not perform as agreed. Travel insurance, however, can be expensive. Traveler’s Insurance Company, for example, offers about $1,000 of baggage insurance per person for two weeks for about $50. Carefully weigh both your options and the cost against benefits before putting your money down.
It’s wise to reconfirm both departure and return flight reservations, especially during the busy Christmas and Easter seasons. This is a useful strategy—as is prompt arrival at check-in—against getting “bumped” (losing your seat) because of the tendency of airlines to overbook the rush of high-season vacationers. For further protection, if possible get your seat assignment and boarding pass included with your ticket.
Airlines generally try hard to accommodate travelers with dietary or other special needs. When booking your flight, inform your travel agent or carrier of the necessity of a low-sodium, low-cholesterol, vegetarian, or lactose-reduced meal or other requirements.