26 September 2023

MEXICO: Military to run new State airline

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Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies has approved changes in civil aviation and airport laws to allow for a new State-owned airline operated by the Ministry of Defence.

The new legislation states that the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications and Transport can authorise public sector Agencies, including those operated by the military, to operate and manage airlines.

A combination of economic crises and regulatory obstacles has caused the closure of 21 Mexican airlines in the past two decades. There are only three national commercial airlines currently operating in the country.

The vote was tightly contested, but ultimately passed with 256 in favour and 219 against.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed plans to create a State-owned commercial airline operated by the armed forces in October last year after media outlets reported on information contained in leaked Ministry of Defence documents.

The Federal Government bought the defunct Mexicana airline in January, with the intention of using the name for the new army-run airline.

Mexicana was founded in 1921, which made it one of the world’s oldest commercial airlines when it ceased operations in 2010 and declared bankruptcy in 2014.

In February, the Chamber of Deputies passed legislation that gives the military control over Mexican airspace, with the stated aim to increase security and to deter drug traffickers.

The law permits the creation of a new monitoring centre to detect activity often associated with traffickers, including turning off transponder codes, unexplained route changes and failure to communicate with air traffic control services.

Critics of the legislation say it is another move towards the militarisation of the country.

The Government has relied on the military and advocated increasing the scope of its responsibilities, including the control of the National Guard – a move now deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Federal Competition Commission said the launch of a State-owned airline would be anti-competitive by allowing the Government to operate both airlines and airports.

President López Obrador countered by saying the State-owned airline would allow tickets to be offered at lower prices, increasing access for low-income Mexicans.

The Bill will now move to the Senate for debate.

Mexico City, 26 April 2023

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