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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mexicana Plans Feb. 14 Return To Service

Mexicana de Aviacion’s revival plan now expects to return the carrier to revenue service Feb. 14 with a fleet of six operational Airbus A320s and one spare.
The much-delayed return of Mexicana took its first solid step forward last week when the airline operated two maintenance certification flights. The revival continued this week with the completion Jan. 25 of a third maintenance flight and the recertification of Mexico City International Airport as the carrier’s hub airport, and will include the certification of Guadalajara Jan. 26 and the first recertification flight Jan. 28.
Ticket sales are scheduled to return Jan. 31, with first flights expected just two weeks later, according to a source with intimate knowledge of the plan. Destinations planned for the first day of operation are Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Antonio in the U.S., Havana, Cuba, and Guatemala City, Guatemala.
An expansion plan still under discussion forecasts a fleet of 19 aircraft in time for the busy Spring Break season, which starts in April, and 42 Airbus narrowbodies for the summer schedule. Although the number of destinations is still being debated, the source says Mexicana is focused on building its presence in key city-pairs, with as many as four daily flights serving the higher-yield markets.
Certain destinations, including El Salvador, Toronto and Washington, should, however, return before the summer schedule.
The expansion will be halted at 42 aircraft, the source adds, although it may resume in 2012 once management can gauge market demand.
All the aircraft planned for Mexicana’s return will be leased, and agreements are still being negotiated. These include the seven aircraft planned for the Feb. 14 return (six operational and one spare), which could include aircraft owned by the carrier’s chief creditor, Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior (also known as Bancomext), as well as lessors such as Aviation Capital Group and Orix.
Some of Bancomext’s nine A320s are already being used for the maintenance flights, but the bank must negotiate a sale and leaseback agreement with a lessor before it can place any aircraft with Mexicana, says the source. The airline, however, expects eventually to operate all nine A320s owned by Bancomext.
Mexicana’s return could, for now, dampen expansion plans at low-cost operators Interjet and Volaris, as Mexicana intends to keep all the slots it held at Mexico City before its bankruptcy.
This is compounded by the current bilateral air transport agreement between Mexico and the U.S., which restricts operations on any city-pair to two carriers from each country. And according to sources on both sides of the border, the Mexican government has made no indication that it wants to revise that accord.

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