By KELIN DILLON
After years of financial and operational turmoil, Mexican national airline Aeromar officially closed for business on Wednesday, Feb. 15, leaving thousands of passengers without flights and hundreds of employees without work in its wake.
Originally founded in 1987, Aeromar’s fiscal issues seemingly began when it purchased a new fleet of passenger planes in 2016 as Aeromar banked on the idea that the airline’s operations would be extended upon the completion of the planned Mexico New International Airport (NAICM).
However, once newly elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) cancelled the multi-billion-dollar airport project upon entering office in 2018, Aeromar’s investment into its fleet became essentially worthless and exhausted the company’s cash flow, putting the airline and its employees in crisis.
Aeromar’s mounting financial problems were then exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic’s international tourism decline, skyrocketing fuel prices and controversial changes to policies surrounding Mexico’s airspace, leading the airline’s owner Zvi Katz to essentially leave an already-crumbling Aeromar to bleed to its death with a reported debt of $600 million while he fled to Europe.
The final nail in the coffin was Aeromar’s failure to pay its more than 500-million peso debt to its main hub of operations, Mexico City International Airport (AICM), which caused the airport to suspend its activities with the Mexican airline and prompted the facility’s Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares (ASA) to cut off its fuel supply.
Now, years of surmounting pressure has officially caused the airline to collapse; as of Wednesday, Feb. 15, Aeromar has shuttered its doors after 37 years of aeronautical operations.
The fallout is anticipated to leave 587 Aeromar workers, pilots and flight attendants without jobs, though the Mexican government has announced its intentions to find said employees work within Mexico’s other national airlines.
Likewise, 4,905 ticketed passengers are expected to be effected by Aeromar’s cancelled flights that were originally scheduled between Feb. 15 and November of this year, though Mexican national airlines Aeroméxico, Volaris and Viva Aerobus have all offered affected passengers with alternative transportation options for ticketed passengers taking certain routes to make up for their cancelled plans.
During his daily morning press conference on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 16, AMLO criticized Katz for abandoning Aeromar when the company needed leadership most, claiming that while the airline failed, the owners themselves lost nothing.
“It was a badly managed company. It is one of those cases where the companies go bankrupt but not the owners,” said López Obrador. “It’s like the Savings Protection Banking Fund (Fobaproa) thing. Bankrupt banks, rich bankers and the company owners went to Israel, I think, and they left the company abandoned with debts, but from a long time ago.”