Mexico Launches Innovative Army-Operated Airline: Unique Approach, Routes, and Prospects

Mexico City – In a recent announcement, Mexico unveiled its plans to launch a new army-operated airline set to take flight in September. Unlike its counterparts in other sectors, this unique venture will not employ military personnel as flight attendants.

Under the leadership of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the government has extended the army’s influence over diverse sectors including trains, law enforcement, tourism, and infrastructure initiatives. Notably, a tourist ferry line to Isla Marias is already managed by naval personnel.

The upcoming Mexicana airline, however, will offer a refreshing departure from military protocols. Passengers need not fear authoritative seatbelt instructions; instead, the Defense Department has partnered with Boeing to lease 10 Boeing 737-800 jets, complete with their own pilots and cabin crew.

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Initially, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval had misstated the contract value as $4 billion, but he later clarified that the correct figure is 4 billion pesos, roughly equivalent to $235 million.

Destination-wise, Mexicana is exploring approximately 20 potential routes connecting Mexico City to both major and mid-sized Mexican cities, including destinations with limited existing service, as well as popular tourist spots such as Cancun.

In terms of affordability, Sandoval has assured prospective passengers of ticket prices that are projected to be 18% to 20% lower than those offered by private competitors. However, the airline’s profitability remains uncertain, leaving the possibility of government subsidies to keep operations afloat.

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It’s important to note that this isn’t the first time the “Mexicana” brand has taken to the skies. The name pays homage to a partly state-owned carrier that ceased operations in 2010 due to bankruptcy.

The decision to establish a state-operated airline mirrors President López Obrador’s preference for government-owned entities, reflecting his criticism of previous administrations’ privatization of once government-owned companies. This approach is synergistic with his reliance on the armed forces, which he perceives as both trustworthy and essential in the fight against corruption.

Amidst this landscape, the new airline also plays a strategic role. In addition to contributing to the underutilized Felipe Angeles airport’s growth, it is poised to support the president’s Maya Train tourism project. As the army simultaneously undertakes the construction of this train line, which aims to link prominent beach resorts and archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexicana’s flights will facilitate the influx of passengers.

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Despite its lack of experience in the commercial aviation realm, the army has established a subsidiary to oversee the operations of Mexicana. López Obrador has even hinted at a traditional function of government-operated carriers: serving routes to provincial airports that may be deemed unprofitable by commercial airlines. However, this concept could potentially clash with existing regulations that prohibit airlines from controlling Mexican airports, or vice versa.

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