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Mexicana airline suspends several California-Mexico flights

Just days after discussing financial problems, the carrier cancels four of its 15 daily flights from LAX at least until the end of August. Other cities are also affected.

August 03, 2010|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times

Mexicana, one of the largest air carriers between the U.S. and Mexico, suspended four daily flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Mexico on Monday, following news of financial problems at the Mexico City-based airline.

Officials at LAX confirmed that daily flights from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City and Guadalajara were suspended at least until the end of the month.

Mexicana operates 15 daily departures from LAX, carrying 1.3 million passengers annually. It is the busiest foreign-based airline at the airport.

Mexicana also suspended several flights to Mexico from San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, according to a Mexicana spokeswoman.

On Friday, Mexicana executives and investors met in Mexico City to discuss the airline's financial problems and the possibility of filing for bankruptcy. No decision was made on a course of action, according to airline officials.

Also on Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Mexico's aviation safety rating because of concerns about the country's safety oversight. The move prevents Mexican airlines such as Aeromexico and Mexicana from expanding service in the U.S. It also bars them from carrying passengers to and from the U.S. on code-sharing agreements with U.S.-based airlines, under which airlines can sell tickets to one another's flights.

On Monday, Mexicana spokeswoman Theresa Bravo said "operational needs" forced the airline to suspend flights from the four California cities. She said the airline was working to rebook passengers on other Mexicana flights or other airlines.

Mexicana is a member of the OneWorld Alliance, which makes it easier for the Mexican carrier to transfer passengers to other member airlines.

A spokesman for American Airlines, which is a member of OneWorld Alliance and operates several flights from the U.S. to Mexico, said that if asked by Mexicana, it was prepared to accept the carrier's passengers and tickets.

The suspended flights did not create major disruptions at Southern California airports because the summer travel season to Mexico is already winding down.

Susan Tanzman, owner of Martin's Travel and Tours in West Los Angeles, said she had to rebook only one client who was scheduled to fly Mexicana on Monday.

"If it would have happened a couple of months ago, it would have been a disaster," she added.

The Mexicana spokeswoman said corporate representatives had not released a statement Monday about the airline's economic situation, but previous news reports outlined serious financial problems with that nation's largest air carrier.

On Sunday more than 500 pilots and flight attendants, chanting "Inept businessmen, enough," protested in Mexico City over the threat of possible layoffs and salary cuts at Mexicana.

A spokeswoman for the airline's 1,300-member attendants' union told reporters that Mexicana was proposing to lay off 500 attendants and reduce salaries as much as 50%, among other cost-cutting measures.

The airline's pilots also face pay cuts of up to 41%, according to reports.

In May, Mexicana delayed the planned issuance of $250 million in five-year bonds after the airline failed to secure a partial loan guarantee from government development bank Bancomext. At the time, Mexicana officials said they would "continue analyzing and weighing different options to improve its financial profile."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

Bloomberg News and the Associated Press were used in compiling this report.

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