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First flight of new Mexicana airline forced to divert

The Boeing 737 Mexicana receives a water salute at the Mexico City military airport before taking off for Tulum.
Mexican presidency/document via Reuters

  • The military airline Mexicana had to divert during its first flight on Tuesday.
  • The previous iteration of the Mexican carrier was one of the oldest in the world before collapsing in 2010.
  • Mexicana hopes to offer more affordable air travel in Mexico and expand to less well-served cities.

Mexicana was one of the world’s oldest airlines before its collapse in 2010. Now, almost 14 years later, a government airline bears the same name – but the beginnings are not easy.

The first Mexicana flight took off Tuesday, connecting Mexico City’s Felipe Ángeles International Airport with Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport in the popular beach town of Tulum, the Associated Press reported.

Like the airline, both airports recently opened and are managed by the Ministry of Defense. According to AP, the military has no experience running business operations.

The airline already has a low on-time arrival rate. On its first flight, Mexicana had to divert the Boeing 737-800 to a small town due to poor weather conditions.

According to data from plane tracking site FlightAware, the plane stayed in Mérida for about 90 minutes before taking off and arrived in Tulum about five and a half hours after leaving Mexico City.

Despite this initial mistake, Mexicana plans to expand to 14 initial destinations from its Mexico City base, according to a roadmap posted on its website.

The government also said the airline plans to add five more planes to its already five-strong fleet of Boeing and Embraer planes. The deal is worth 4 billion pesos (about $236 million), Bloomberg reported.

Mexicana plans to add five more Boeing planes to its fleet.
Mexican presidency/document via Reuters

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is behind the reincarnation of Mexicana and its military surveillance.

After taking office in 2018, the leader placed faith in the military as an incorruptible force and gave the armed forces control of everything from trains and aviation to hotels and infrastructure, reported AP.

This includes, among other projects, the construction of new airports in Tulum and Mexico City and the construction of a train line in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The decision to cede control to the military stems from the president’s dissonance with private companies, which he described during a press briefing as “thieves” having committed “grand theft.”

The Mexican president during a press conference Tuesday for the inaugural flight.
Mexican presidency/document via Reuters

With Mexicana now in the hands of the military, Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval explained that the goal was to reduce the cost of air transportation in Mexico and better connect its cities, covering both underserved markets and tourist hotspots.

Tickets for Mexicana’s inaugural flight cost about $92, AP reported, which the military says is a third of the cost of competing commercial carriers.

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