Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Government declines union request to take control of troubled airline

The federal government told Interjet workers on Monday that it won’t take control of the beleaguered airline as requested by the employees’ union last week.

An employee who spoke to the newspaper Milenio said that he and his colleagues were informed of the decision at a meeting with officials at the Interior Ministry.

Section 15 of the Mexican Workers Confederation asked the government last Friday to requisition Interjet, saying that leaving the airline in the hands of its new owners poses a threat to national security, the economy and the public interest.

Interjet has faced a slew of problems this year – among which have been cash flow shortages and flight cancelations – and owes some 4,000 workers six fortnightly salary payments known as quincenas.

Employees say that under the administration of its current owners – the most prominent of whom is businessman Alejandro del Valle – the airline is at risk of bankruptcy.

If it were to file for bankruptcy, the government would lose 7 billion pesos (US $352 million) in unpaid taxes and and 350 million pesos in payments to the Mexican Social Security Institute and the National Workers Housing Fund, according to the workers.

A meeting between government officials, del Valle and airline workers is expected to take place early next week at the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board.

Another issue surfaced today for the troubled airline. Ex-employees have filed 50 claims against Interjet for unpaid severance amounting to 11 million pesos. Employees who were dismissed as far back as March say they have not been paid any of the money they are owed.

The severance payments range from 100,000 to 400,000 pesos.

Meanwhile, problems continue to plague operations this week.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) suspended Interjet’s participation in its billing and settlement plan, which facilitates the sale and issuing of airline tickets through an IATA affiliated network of  travel agents, while the carrier’s planes have been grounded in recent days and are not likely to fly again until Friday.

The newspaper El Financiero said it had access to Interjet’s flight schedule and that the airline intended to cancel all of its flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. A total of 56 flights were to be canceled during the three-day period due to “operational needs.”

At least two flight scheduled for Friday were also set to be canceled but some services were expected to go ahead that day.

Interjet has canceled more than 100 flights in recent weeks, apparently due to a lack of money to purchase fuel for its aircraft.

But a worker told El Financiero that the airline is having trouble finding crew for its planes because many employees aren’t going to work because of the three months’ worth of salaries they are owed and the unkept promises of del Valle to pay them.

The worker also said the airline has had to transfer maintenance staff from the Mexico City airport to the Cancún airport because employees at the latter are not currently working.

Interjet’s workforces at other airports, including those in Mexico City and Guadalajara, are diminished because employees have decided not to show up due to uncertainty about when or if they will be paid.

With demand for air travel still low due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is improbable that the airline’s fortunes will turn around any time soon, making bankruptcy a more likely near-term scenario than recovery.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Financiero (sp) 

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