Mexicana Lives to Fly Another Day

The last few weeks have been, well, pretty horrible for Mexicana's customers. The airline has been teetering on the edge of financial insolvency, canceling flights and ceasing bookings amidst the uncertainty even as it continues operations. Worse, the airline is effectively holding current passengers' money hostage by refusing to cancel flights in advance, even though it clearly lacks the planes to fly them. In declaring Mexicana the Worst Airline Ever, Brett Snyder at the Cranky Flier explains:

Mexicana has already had some aircraft repossessed, expects to return 40% of its fleet to lessors, and hasn’t been running a full schedule. Originally, the affected flights were canceled through August, but now they are canceled "until new notice." ... This is where it gets absolutely insane. Though flights are canceled until new notice, they aren’t actually canceled yet. They’re sitting in limbo and that means passengers are in a terrible place.

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... If you’re booked on Mexicana, this is like watching a train come at you in slow motion and you can’t move out of the way. You know your flight will be canceled, but there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it because the airline is holding your money hostage.

Sure, you can buy a new ticket, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back for the old one. If Mexicana does miraculously fly those flights, you’ll be out of luck. And you can’t dispute it with your credit card until the flight has canceled. It’s a no-win situation for passengers.

It's bad enough when an airline spirals out of business; worse, when it exploits its passengers as it circles the drain.

But for customers currently ticketed on Mexicana, there is a bit of good news. A group of investors has come up with $50 million, enough to keep Mexicana running for 100 days or so. According to AviationWeek, the pilots union will accept a 100-day period of reduced pay, and help determine which routes will be maintained and with which aircraft.

None of this fixes the long-term problems plaguing the airline. Mexicana still needs to form agreements with labor and sort out structural issues relating to operations and finances, and it's quite possible that the airline still folds after 100 days. These latter issues seem endemic, if the airline's handling of cancellations is any indication.

So, Mexicana now has 100 days to get its act together, not an easy task. It should start by treating its customers with something resembling dignity. Hopefully, ticketed passengers will soon have a more realistic sense of whether or not their flight will actually fly. As for consumers who are considering a flight with Mexicana, I hate to say it, but the airline isn't exactly a safe bet right now. Its schedule is significantly diminished, and its future, if you haven't already guessed, is fuzzy at best. Book if you must, but do so with caution.

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