Saturday, April 20, 2024

Mexicana takes off, but first flight is delayed on route to Tulum

The new state-owned commercial airline Mexicana de Aviación began operations on Tuesday with the inaugural flight departing the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) near Mexico City shortly after 8 a.m.

But the flight didn’t go as planned: it was supposed to land at the new airport in Tulum, Quintana Roo, but instead touched down in Mérida, Yucatán, due to poor weather in the Caribbean coast resort town.

The return of Mexicana has been a key policy in President López Obrador’s administration. (Andrea Murcia/Cuartoscuro)

Heavy cloud cover in Tulum affected visibility and forced the aircraft to reroute to the Yucatán capital, where it landed just before 10:30 a.m. Poor weather has affected other flights headed for and departing Quintana Roo on Tuesday morning.

Later on Tuesday, the Mexicana plane left Mérida after refueling and landed in Tulum just before 12:30 p.m.

Mexicana’s take-off from AIFA was broadcast live at President López Obrador’s morning press conference.

“Mexicana de Aviación is flying again,” López Obrador said of the revived airline, which was Mexico’s flag carrier until it ceased operations in 2010.

Mexicana originally operated between 1921 and 2010, before collapsing under mismanagement. The ‘new’ airline is operated by the Defense Ministry, having licensed use of the Mexicana brand. (Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

“This is an emblematic airline and during the government [of former president Vicente] Fox it was privatized. It was a public company and it was given to people close to Fox in one of those favors that were done with electoral purposes,” he said.

“… The important thing is that this airline from Mexico is being rescued after acts of corruption and these handovers of public assets to private individuals,” López Obrador said.

“This airline will be managed by the Olmeca-Maya-Mexica [state-owned, military-run] company, which is going to manage airports, the Maya Train railroad and Mexicana de Aviación,” he said.

López Obrador has used the military for a wide range of non-traditional tasks during his presidency, leading to claims that he is militarizing the country. The president rejects such assertions.

Mexicana’s maiden flight was operated by the army on a military-owned aircraft. It took off from one army-built airport and was headed to another before being rerouted to Mérida.

From “consideration” to take-off in just over a year

In May 2021, López Obrador said that there was a proposal from “Mexican investors” to revive Mexicana and that the government would “help” to get the airline back in the sky, albeit without using public money for a “rescue.”

The private sector plan never eventuated, and in October 2022 – just 14 months before today’s inauguration – AMLO confirmed a media report that the government was considering the creation of a state-owned commercial airline to be operated by the army.

“The economic viability analysis is being done. … There are a lot of places that can’t be reached by plane because they’re not served by the current airlines,” he said at the time.

In early 2023, the government reached an agreement to buy the brand and some assets of Mexicana, and finalized the deal last August just a month after López Obrador said the government’s attempt to purchase the defunct airline had failed.

The reinvigorated Mexicana completed its first test flights earlier this month.

Which destinations will Mexicana serve?

Olmeca-Maya-Mexica chief José Gerardo Vega Rivera said Tuesday that Mexicana will operate flights to and from 14 airports in the following states: México state (where AIFA is located), Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Guerrero, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Yucatán.

Among the routes the airline will fly are ones between AIFA and the following cities: Tijuana, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, Mérida, Mazatlán, Campeche, Chetumal and Tulum.

Tulum international airpot
The new Tulum airport, another major government infrastructure project, was chosen as the inaugural destination, although bad weather forced a diversion to Mérida. (Mara Lezama/X)

Vega said that flights from AIFA to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas;  Uruapan, Michoacán; Huatulco, Oaxaca; and Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca, will commence at a later date.

“Mexicana will continue increasing its capacity in order to provide quality and affordable service with high standards of safety, efficiency and comfort, always under the premise of serving Mexico and contributing to the development of the country and the well-being of the population,” he said.

The El Financiero newspaper reported that the only tickets currently being sold on the Mexicana website are for flights to and from nine airports: Tijuana, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, Mérida, Mazatlán, Campeche, Chetumal, Tulum and AIFA.

The Mexicana website was out of action for an extended period on Tuesday morning, but was back online shortly before 11 a.m.

The airline, which will allow passengers to travel with up to 25 kilograms of luggage without incurring additional costs, doesn’t have any current plans to fly to international destinations.

The inaugural flight

Speaking at AIFA on Tuesday morning, Mexicana director Sergio Montaño highlighted that passengers on the airline’s first flight paid 1,558 pesos (US $92) for an AIFA-Tulum round trip.

He said that other airlines charge an average of 2,309 pesos (US $136) – or 48% more – for the same trip.

“The price was spectacular,” Miguel, one of 147 passengers on the Tuesday morning flight, said in an interview.

Mexicana offers discounted tickets to flyers, opening up Mexico’s air travel market to a new sector of the population. (Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

“… We need these options, we’re very happy. We saved around US $250, about 4,000 pesos,” said Miguel, who was traveling with three family members.

The first Mexicana plane to take off was a Boeing 737, but the airline will also operate two smaller Embraer 145 aircraft during its initial phase of operations.

“Mexicana is recommencing flights with new generation planes, including aircraft with a shorter wingspan in order to increase connectivity to airports where large planes can’t operate,” Vega said.

With reports from Reforma, El Financiero, Milenio and El Universal 

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