For the second time in less than a month and four days before a scheduled employee strike over nonpayment of wages, the financially beleaguered airline Interjet abruptly cancelled its flights this past weekend and into Monday morning, reportedly due to a lack of fuel.
Nineteen flights scheduled for today between Mexico City and Cancún, Monterrey, Cozumel, Guadalajara and Mérida were canceled this morning. On the weekend, 24 other flights between Mexico City and Cancún, Monterrey and Cozumel were also canceled with little notice to passengers.
Interjet employees interviewed by the newspaper La Jornada said the cancellation of flights came as a surprise to them. As of this morning, Interjet still had flights scheduled in and out of Mexico City for this evening, all occurring after 5 p.m.
This is the second time Interjet has had to cancel flights due to the inability to purchase fuel. Passengers flying between October 31 and November 2 also had their flights canceled with little warning, affecting 3,099 travelers.
The airline has been plagued with setbacks throughout 2020, stemming from debts going back nearly a decade, and worsened by losses in income this year due to the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the airline industry.
It currently owes unpaid wages going back five pay periods to more than 5,000 workers, who are threatening to strike starting on Friday. Earlier this month, a federal judge greenlighted a lawsuit against Interjet by Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares (ASA), the federally owned company that manages about two dozen airports and provides aviation fuel, in order to recover unpaid fuel debts.
The consumer protection agency Profeco recently issued a warning to Mexicans not to use Interjet, citing its tendency to change or cancel flights with little warning, saying the fault in the previous incident in October was “completely attributable to the airline.” In 2019, Profeco received 769 complaints from consumers against Interjet, 322 of them related to changed or canceled flights, refunds, or advertised discounts.
As of November 3, said Profeco, it had received twice as many complaints, 1,542 in total, 904 of which were ticketing related. The chief complaint was over flight cancellations.
In February, the organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity said it had found evidence that Interjet owes more than 3 billion pesos (US $150 million) in taxes and other debts to various federal agencies, including the Federal Tax Administration (SAT) and ASA.
The airline dismissed the report as “imprecise” and said it had reached agreements with SAT to pay off its debts. However, the tax agency’s chief, Raquel Buenrostro, told reporters that the only agreement it had made with Interjet was that it should pay income and sales tax debt dating back to 2013.