Aeromozas Mexicana

Ten stewardesses with troubled Mexicana Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in August 2010 and suspended operations, have launched a sultry aviation-themed calendar in a bid to call attention to their own plight and that of their airline. The 2011 calendar did feature glossy shots of the flight attendants, clad only in bikinis and aviation shades or abbreviated uniforms, draped over propellers and striking racy poses in the cockpit. 

Unlike the Women's Institute members in Britain, who really create a racy calendar to raise funds, the stewardesses kept their clothes on. It was the brainchild of 10-year Mexicana veteran Coral Perez. 

"It occurred to me because we all needed money, and I thought that with so many pretty girls (among Mexicana's staff) there were bound to be some who'd be interested," she said. Each of the 10 ‘aeromozas’ - flight attendants in Spanish - who ended up posing paid out of her own pocket to help cover the £5,000 production costs. 

"The goal was to try to help ourselves because we lost everything overnight,’ said 26-year-old Maribel Zavala. The calendar has sparked a media frenzy in Mexico and the first run of 1,000 was sold out even before yesterday's launch and a second edition of 3,000 calendars, which cost about 10,-US $ each is in the works. The calendar's release came on the heels of Mexicana's announcement that a restructuring proposal might allow it to resume some flights by mid-December. 

Under the plan, just 30 per cent of the company's personnel would be rehired. Founded in 1921, shortly after Dutch carrier KLM and Australia's Qantas airline, Mexicana used to serve 65 destinations in Mexico, the U.S., other parts of the Americas and Europe.

Fast forward 13 years from 2010 when Mexicana airlines went bankrupt. Thousands of its former employees are still waiting for financial compensation, but they have only heard empty promises from politicians. Could that be about to change?
"All our saving are gone, we sold our cars, whatever valuables we owned; some colleagues even sold their houses to get by," recounts a teary-eyed Adriana Islas Caballero, who once worked for the now-defunct Mexicana airlines. 13 years have passed since the Mexican carrier, which was Latin America's oldest, went bankrupt. Islas Caballero and her 8,000 former co-workers are still waiting to receive financial compensation and their pensions. Fausto Guerrero Diaz — who heads the Association of Pensioners, Employees and ex-Employees of Mexicana airlines, or Ajteam — says the carrier's bankruptcy has been especially hard on retirees. 

"Most of us are too old to find a new job," the 59-year-old explains. He says many pensioner were forced to use up their savings just to survive. Many, Guerrero Diaz adds, lost everything they owned, and paid a steep price health-wise. 

Mexicana airlines, once state-owned, was privatized in 2005 and sold to Mexican hotel operator Grupo Posadas for a fraction of its real worth. The sale included Mexicana's pension fund, worth some $130 million (€115 million). But just five years after Grupo Posadas took over, Mexicana airlines had already racked up some $800 million in debt.

Mexicana was one of the oldest airlines in the world when it went out of business in August 2010. The carrier had been flying to the U.S. since 1920, when it began operating Mexico City to Tuxpan to Tampico to Brownsville, Texas with a Ford Trimotor. The carrier, partially-owned by the Mexican government, went into bankruptcy, and a great deal was revealed about how key executives used the business for tax fraud and money laundering. 

Today Mexico is served by airlines like Aeroméxico and Volaris. However the country’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has decided he wants a new national airline to be run by the government itself. The government of Mexico has now acquired the assets of Mexicana, which has been defunct for 13 years for $42.6 million, including:

  • $21 million for the airline’s brand
  • $11 million for its training center
  • $6 million for “a couple of buildings and offices that the company owns.”

The airline will be run by retired members of the military. And by re-starting Mexicana, rather launching a new airline, they’re bringing back union leaders who haven’t had membership to lead in over a dozen years. Mexicana’s old unions will get a payout. And the airline is in talks with Boeing to acquire aircraft.

However, the new Mexicana can’t even fly to the U.S. The FAA downgraded Mexico’s air safety oversight from category 1 to category 2. No Mexican airline can add a new flight or route. 

So Mexicana cannot fly to the U.S. at all. Mexico’s President says there’s nothing wrong with his country’s aviation safety and that the move is just protectionism, to let U.S. airlines expand into Mexico while preventing Mexican airlines from doing the reverse. 

However, plenty of incidents at least provide anecdotal support for a problem.

Anyway, nother well-funded player, looking to expand aggressively, could be good for customers. It could also offer the sort of poor product you often see from effectively government-run entities like Cubana de Aviación and Aerolíneas Argentinas, along with poor frequent flyer program, because they don’t need to be competitive – political patrons, rather than passengers, become their customers.