Mexico is set to launch a military-led commercial airline in September 2023, reports the Associated Press.
The new Mexicana airline will be run by the army and joins other sectors of the country’s economy and administration under military control, such as trains, law and order, tourism and various infrastructure projects.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or ‘AMLO’ as he is nicknamed, has a soft spot for military-run projects and places great faith in the armed forces as a buffer against corruption, fighting which has been a key tenet of his manifesto.
Dubbed the ‘Robin Hood’ President, Obrador is long-time believer in state-ownership and has excoriated previous administrations for sleaze and selling off national assets. “Let’s quickly return everything to the people that’s been stolen,” he told a news conference in 2019, after turning over to the public the Presidential Palace and his predecessor’s private plane.
The new airline’s name is an homage to a partly state-owned carrier that went bankrupt in 2010 and closed. He paid its former employees $50 million (46 million euros) for rights to the brand and assets, which experts have said was a gross overvaluation.
2. No military pilots or air stewards
Flyers on Mexicana will not be welcomed aboard, told cruising heights or weather updates, or served drinks by military personnel. The Defense Department will instead “wet lease” 10 Boeing 737-800 jets, meaning the manufacturer will be providing all pilots and cabin crew.
The Boeing contract is worth 4 billion pesos ($235 million or 216 million euros), according to Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval.
3. Routes and potential subsidies
Sandoval said 20 routes between Mexico City and other major and mid-size domestic destinations were in the offing. This could mean improved access to underserved tourist resorts like Cancun.
With ticket pricing intended to undercut competitors by 18% to 20%, Sandoval did not confirm whether Mexicana would be able to run at a profit or would need subsidies.
Mexicana would not be the only world airline to receive state aid. The majority of global airlines and manufacturers prop up artificially cheap ticket prices by receiving subsidies in one form or another, whether from regional or national sources. Often this help comes in the shape of tax exemptions on fuel and tickets – something users of other modes of transport do not enjoy. The COVID-19 pandemic became another reason for state aid with billions of dollars and euros of taxpayers’ money handed to airlines in 2021 alone.