AMLO’s Mexicana Airline Has No Jets or Schedule Ahead of Launch

Mexico’s new state-owned airline has no planes or scheduled flights registered under its name a little more than a month before it’s supposed to start operations.

(Bloomberg) — Mexico’s new state-owned airline has no planes or scheduled flights registered under its name a little more than a month before it’s supposed to start operations.

Creating the carrier has been a pet project of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has promised prices 20% below commercial airlines on 20 routes serving big cities and beach destinations. The plan, announced in dribs and drabs over the past few months, was to initially lease 10 Boeing 737-800 jets, with three deliveries scheduled for late September and the rest for late October. Ticket sales were pegged to start as soon as September. 

As of Thursday, no jets are registered under Mexicana de Aviacion — the name of the airline — and there are no flights scheduled for the fourth quarter of the year or the first of 2024 in an industry database operated by Cirium, according to Bloomberg Intelligence aviation analyst Francois Duflot. The airline’s website is now live, but it has enough glitches that it’s impossible to simulate buying a ticket. Flights are supposed to begin in December.

“At this point, I see an airline with no aircraft and with no schedule,” Duflot said. “It can’t go very far with that.” 

Mexicana also isn’t listed on a document that shows all the airlines that have valid certificates of operation in the country, he said.

Lopez Obrador is pressing ahead with ambitious economic projects as he nears the end of his administration, though some of them have faced severe cost overruns and delays. The Dos Bocas oil refinery, which saw its budget balloon over the course of construction, took a year after it was opened to actually start making fuel. A passenger train being built through southern Mexico will now cost 500 billion pesos ($27 billion), nearly four times more than the original estimate. Analysts have questioned whether any of the initiatives are needed.

The Mexicana website shows a map of flight destinations, including some of the nation’s busiest routes from the capital to Monterrey, Guadalajara and Cancún. Below, it has “trip recommendations” to beaches, cities and “adventure.” Each category opens tabs naming corresponding cities on the map, although there’s no further information available. 

A previous incarnation of Mexicana operated for decades as the second national airline, competing with Aeromexico. It abruptly stopped operating in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy amid rising competition and accusations of mismanagement. The government bought rights to the name out of the bankruptcy.

SAT Aero Holdings

For Mexicana, the government hired a little-known company called SAT Aero Holdings Inc. to manage leases and hire air crews. It was formerly known as Petrus Aero Holdings, but had to change its name due to an “unknown trademark issue,” it said in a Facebook post Sept. 15. A Google search shows that Petrus Aviation is a company based in Dallas, that finances aircraft and engines, among other things. 

SAT Aero didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment. Its website refers users to a new website that’s still under construction.

In August, Lopez Obrador said a Defense Ministry analysis found that the company was the “best mechanism” to obtain the jets. “They’re delivering,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, which oversees the airline, didn’t respond to emailed questions and said the general in charge of Mexicana wasn’t available for an interview. 

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