Monday, March 4, 2024

Army-run airline will begin operations by the end of 2023: AMLO

Mexico’s state-owned commercial airline will begin operations in late 2023, President López Obrador announced Monday during his regular morning press conference.

The airline will be run by the Ministry of Defense (Sedena) as part of its airline and tourism firm Olmeca-Maya-Mexica Airport, Railroad and Auxiliary Services Group. The army-run company is also responsible for operating the Maya Train railroad and the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA). 

“The new airline will begin operations in a year, this is the plan for the end of next year, along with the operation of the [Maya] Train and the appraisal of the Mexicana brand,” President López Obrador said. 

The airline will lower the cost of airfare while serving cities that current routes do not frequently reach, according to the president. He added that the country’s entire aviation system will be improved. 

AMLO press conference Dec 5
The president made his announcement from Campeche, where he was joined by the governor Layda Sansores (far left) as well as the Defense Minister and Interior Minister. (Presidencia de la República)

The name Mexicana comes from the former national airline that ceased operations in 2010. The airline’s downfall was marked by corruption and mismanagement, leaving over 8,000 employees without jobs. President López Obrador has said that the new airline, consisting of a fleet of 10 leased planes, will be staffed by these individuals. 

The airline will also include the presidential plane, which the president has failed to sell. It will be used to reward airline workers and their families, he said in November.

Information about the proposed airline was first leaked by the Guacamaya hacking group, which infiltrated Sedena’s internal communications and resulted in a breach of millions of emails. 

The airline’s viability has been questioned, as its operating costs could be between 1 billion and 1.8 billion pesos (or around US$50-90 million). Moreover, it is illegal for a company to operate an airline and an airport simultaneously, although this could possibly be circumvented by presidential decree. There is also doubt that travelers would be willing to fly with a military-run airline given the armed forces’ record of fatal aviation accidents. 

President López Obrador also announced that Sedena will be charged with managing the Chetumal, Palenque, and Campeche airports. The Navy (Semar) will operate the airport in Ciudad del Carmen. 

“In the case of Campeche, it will be [Sedena] because of the Maya Train, and in the case of Ciudad del Carmen it will be the Navy because they are in charge of serving the entire sea of Campeche and our country’s oil region,” the president said. 

President López Obrador has been widely criticized for his heavy reliance on the military for tasks such as public security and the construction of several key infrastructure projects.

With reports from Milenio and El Financiero

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