Continental Airlines is preparing to begin codesharing with Mexican regional carrier Aeromar to fill the void left by its former Mexican alliance partner Aeromexico.
Aeromar president Ami Lindenberg says the carrier signed a codeshare agreement with Continental in April and the new partnership is on pace to be implemented at the end of August or early September. He says Aeromar will initially only carry Continental's code but Aeromar expects to begin placing its code on Continental flights in the third quarter of 2011 as part of a second phase.
Lindenberg says the codeshare is designed to give Continental passengers access to destinations in Mexico currently not served by the US carrier as well as better access to some of the 30 Mexican cities Continental currently serves. "We'll complement Continental on routes where they don't operate or where they only have one operation and need a complementary operation via Mexico City," he explains.
Houston-based Continental has the largest Mexican network of any US carrier but several of its Mexican destinations are served with seven or fewer weekly frequencies. Lindenberg says the codeshare will also give Continental passengers access to domestic flights when travelling multi-leg itineraries which involve stops in more than one Mexican city.
Continental previously had access to Mexican domestic flights through Aeromexico and its regional subsidiary Aeromexico Express. But this relationship dissolved when Continental left SkyTeam for Star late last year. Aeromexico is a member of SkyTeam and Mexicana's other major carrier, Mexicana, is a member of oneworld, but there is currently no Mexican member of Star.
Aeromar currently has an extensive codeshare arrangement with Mexicana which Lindenberg says will continue despite the new tie-up with Continental.
"Mexicana has no problem with that because there's no conflict of interest. We're complementary; we're not a main operator on international routes," Lindenberg says. "Mexicana's market is very different than Continental's markets in Mexico. Both can live very well with each other."
While Lindenberg says Aeromar plans to carry Continental's code on all its flight from the beginning only select Continental flights will be included in the partnership. Lindenberg says Aeromar is particularly interested in offering flights to Houston from its Gulf of Mexico destinations where there are offshore oil operations.
He says Aeromar may also decide next year on expanding its codeshare with Mexicana, which now only includes domestic flights operated by both carriers, to include Mexicana-operated international flights.
Aeromar is entirely a domestic operator with the exception of one weekly international flight from San Luis Potosi to San Antonio in Texas. Lindenberg says Aeromar plans to remain 99% focused on the domestic Mexican market but believes it can benefit from offering international connections to some of its loyal business passengers who work in the oil industry.