Mexicana airlines shut down all flights on Saturday, marking at least a temporary disappearance from the skies.
MEXICO CITY — Mexicana airlines shut down all flights on Saturday, marking at least a temporary disappearance from the skies of one of the world’s oldest air carriers.
Some airlines offered preferential deals to Mexican passengers scrambling to find alternatives, but many were baffled by how to get home. The loss of Grupo Mexicana flights eliminated much of the air service to many Mexican cities.
“In the face of the serious deterioration of the company’s finances and given the impossibility of reaching agreements to ensure the future viability of the company’s operations, we have been forced to temporarily and indefinitely suspend operations,” according to a recording played on the company’s Mexico City contact number.
The company vowed to seek ways to resume operations at an indefinite time in the future.
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Calls to the company’s press office went unanswered, and its ticket counters at the Mexico City terminal — its main hub — were empty, except for occasional knots of travelers seeking advice about how to replace flights on Mexicana, Mexicana Click and Mexicana Link.
Erika Lejsek, who heads the complaints department for Mexico’s consumer-protection agency, said about 60 or 70 people had approached the agency’s booths at the airport to ask for help.
Lejsek said about 22 had been placed on other Mexican airlines, at least three of which “are offering preferential rates, for people to return to their homes.”
But a few angry ticket holders remained at Mexico City’s international airport Saturday, looking for a way home.
Traveler Luis Ignacio Sorroza was attempting to return home to the southern city of Oaxaca, after a trip to Miami, Florida, originally booked with Mexicana.
“The truth is, they are not offering any solution, they are not giving any information,” Sorroza said of the troubled airline. While he got a flight from Miami to Mexico City on another airline, he was left without a flight to Oaxaca, 290 miles (470 kilometers) southeast of the capital.
“Essentially, you are left to find your own way home,” said Sorroza.
Mexicana de Aviacion flew routes to more than 65 domestic and international destinations, including the United States, Canada, Central America, South America and Europe. It grew into Mexico’s biggest airline and transported 11.1 million passengers in 2009, according to the company’s website.
The company founded in 1921 — shortly after Dutch carrier KLM and Australia’s Qantas airline — filed for bankruptcy protection in Mexico and the United States on Aug. 2 in a bid to restructure costs.
The company first stopped selling new tickets and finally was forced to shut down because it does not have enough money to keep flying.
But Transportation Secretary Juan Francisco Molinar Horcasitas said the carrier “is in a process that should lead to restructuring.” He declined to say give specific details of the carrier’s financial situation.
Executives said this month that the company needed an infusion of at least $100 million to keep flying, and on Aug. 21 a group of Mexican investors called Tenedora K announced it had bought a 95 percent stake in Grupo Mexicana.
Mexicana said in a statement Friday on its website that current management received the airline “in a state of technical bankruptcy.” The carrier says it was badly hit by the swine flu outbreak last year that scared away travelers for months and by the global economic slowdown.
The airline said that high jet fuel prices and labor costs contributed to its financial troubles.
Before the bankruptcy filing, the company unsuccessfully sought union agreement on pay cuts of 41 percent for pilots and 39 percent for flight attendants, along with a 40 percent reduction in employees. Labor leaders rejected the proposal, saying their members already agreed to cuts in 2006.