February 21, 2024 11:14:37 booked.net

Mexico’s Army-Operated Airline Takes Off, Transforming Travel Landscape

Mexico witnessed the inaugural flight of its army-operated airline, Mexican Airlines, departing from Mexico City to the Caribbean haven of Tulum on Tuesday. This development underscores President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s emphasis on the significant role played by the country’s armed forces. The military-run holding company overseeing the airline now manages numerous entities, including airports, hotels, trains, customs services, and tourist parks.

General Luis Cresencio Sandoval, Mexico’s defense secretary, defended the diverse businesses’ military management, stating that it is “common in developed countries.” While military-run airlines are uncommon globally, countries like Cuba, Sri Lanka, Argentina, and Colombia operate small carriers on under-served or remote domestic routes, usually with prop planes.

Mexicana, the new airline, aims to transport tourists from Mexican cities to popular resorts like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, and Mazatlan. With flights scheduled every three or four days, predominantly on weekends, the carrier plans to compete based on affordability. Initial ticket prices for the Mexico City to Tulum route were approximately $92, purportedly one-third cheaper than commercial airlines.

However, the debut flight faced complications as it was rerouted to Merida due to adverse weather conditions in Tulum, resulting in a longer travel time. Mexicana also envisions serving 16 small regional airports currently with limited or no flight options.

Sandoval disclosed that the airline commenced operations with three Boeing jets and two smaller leased Embraer planes. Plans include leasing or acquiring five additional jets in early 2024. President López Obrador hailed the event as a historic moment, marking the return of the formerly government-run airline Mexicana, privatized, bankrupted, and closed in 2010.

López Obrador’s approach blends reliance on the military’s perceived integrity with a longing for the state-run companies that once dominated Mexico’s economy. Despite opposition, he views this effort to recreate a more collective economic past as a historic battle. The president has assigned the military a prominent role in infrastructure projects and domestic law enforcement.

Mexicana’s launch coincides with the administration’s push to revitalize state-run entities on a smaller scale. While facing skepticism due to past inefficiencies and corruption, López Obrador frames this initiative as a crucial legacy for his administration, contributing to Mexico’s economic shift.

The army, with no prior experience in commercial flights, established a subsidiary to manage Mexicana. The military’s involvement extends to the Maya Train tourism project, where the army is constructing the train line connecting Yucatan Peninsula destinations.