By BERT HOOVER
Mexico is set to inaugurate its army-operated airline, Mexicana, in September. However, it has been clarified that the flight attendants on these flights will not be members of the armed forces, AP reports.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador‘s administration has extended the army’s jurisdiction to encompass various sectors, including trains, law enforcement, tourism, and infrastructure initiatives. Notably, a ferry line serving Isla Marias islands, designated for tourists, is managed by navy personnel.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department disclosed that the Mexico army-run airline has signed a contract to lease ten Boeing 737-800 jets from the manufacturer, and these aircraft will be operated by the manufacturer’s pilots and cabin crew.
Initially, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval inaccurately stated the contract’s value with Boeing at $4 billion, later rectifying it to 4 billion pesos, equivalent to approximately $235 million.
Sandoval mentioned that the airline is contemplating around 20 possible routes connecting Mexico City to major and mid-sized Mexican cities, including those with limited existing services and popular tourist destinations such as Cancun.
Sandoval assured ticket prices would be 18% to 20% cheaper than private competitors. However, the airline’s profitability remains uncertain.
If unprofitable, government subsidies may be necessary for its operation.
Mexico Army-Run Airline Mexicana
Named “Mexicana,” the airline’s nomenclature pays homage to a partly state-owned carrier that declared bankruptcy in 2010 and eventually ceased operations.
The 8,500 former employees of the defunct Mexicana, who hold allegiances with President López Obrador, will receive nearly $50 million from the administration for the commercial rights to the old airline’s brand and certain deteriorated properties, according to Market Screener.
Analysts have noted that this sum significantly surpasses market value.
The inception of this new airline amalgamates López Obrador’s preference for state-owned entities and his strong reliance on the armed forces, which he perceives as a bastion of integrity and a deterrent against corruption.
A military-led enterprise supervises the newly constructed Felipe Angeles airport, designated Mexico City’s third airport. It is simultaneously working on a new airport in Tulum, a Caribbean coast resort.
Beyond augmenting activity at the underutilized Felipe Angeles airport, the army-managed Mexicana airline appears to be positioned to provide flights that align with the president’s Maya Train tourism project.
This train service is designed to link beach resorts and archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The army has established a subsidiary to manage the Mexico army-run airline, Mexicana, even though it lacks experience in commercial flight operations.
López Obrador has hinted that the new airline could potentially fulfill one of the traditional roles of state-owned carriers-serving less lucrative routes to provincial airports.
This concept could, however, potentially clash with existing regulations prohibiting airlines from controlling Mexican airports and vice versa.
Guacamaya Hacking Group Leaks Mexico Army-Run Airline Proposal in 2022
The Guacamaya hacking group divulged information about the airline proposal in 2022 after infiltrating Serena’s internal communications, resulting in a massive breach of emails, per Mexico Daily News.
The airline’s feasibility has been questioned due to initial projected operational costs ranging from 1 billion to 1.8 billion pesos (approximately US$50-90 million).
Additionally, running an airline and an airport concurrently is legally restricted, though this might be circumvented by a presidential decree.
Concerns also persist regarding passengers’ willingness to fly with a military-administered airline, given the armed forces’ history of aviation accidents resulting in fatalities.
President López Obrador said that Sedena will manage the Chetumal, Palenque, and Campeche airports, while the Navy (Semar) will oversee the Ciudad del Carmen airport.
Furthermore, he also said that the presidential plane, which President López Obrador has struggled to sell, will be integrated into the new airline’s operations, adding that the plane would be used to reward airline staff and their families.
Criticism has been directed at President López Obrador for his significant reliance on the military for public security and the construction of pivotal infrastructure ventures.
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Written by: Bert Hoover
WATCH: Mexican government seeks to relaunch Mexicana Airlines – From CGTN America
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