Interjet eyes Mexico City maintenance hangar

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Mexico's Interjet is interested in setting up a maintenance operation in Mexico City to supplement its MRO facility at the city's alternative airport in Toluca.

The low-cost carrier opened in 2007 a single-bay heavy maintenance hangar at Toluca, where Interjet currently works on Airbus A320s from its own fleet and third-party customers. Interjet is based at Toluca but in 2008 the carrier began operations at Mexico City International Airport after acquiring slots from grounded carrier Aerocalifornia.

Interjet has since steadily expanded in Mexico City, where it now operates 20 domestic routes. At Toluca Interjet now only operates eight domestic routes. Interjet CEO Jose Luis Garza says while the carrier plans to continue to perform all heavy maintenance at Toluca "we need some technical base in Mexico City".

He says the additional maintenance base in Mexico City would complement its Toluca MRO operation and be used mainly for overnight maintenance checks. Interjet does not want to rely completely on Toluca for maintenance because it plans to focus most of its expansion at Mexico City as it expands its fleet from 17 to 29 A320s by the end of 2012.

Garza says there currently are several unused maintenance hangars at Mexico City which belong to carriers that have ceased operations. But Garza says these hangars are currently not available to new tenants.

Aviacsa, which ceased operations last year, in particular had a large MRO facility at Mexico City which included several Boeing 737 heavy maintenance lines and an engine overhaul shop for the Pratt & Whitney JT8D. But all of Aviacsa's assets, including its MRO facilities at Mexico City and Monterrey as well as its slots at Mexico City, cannot be reallocated until bankruptcy proceedings are completed.

Interjet is one of several carriers which have expressed interest in Aviacsa's slots, in particular peak hour slots. But far Mexico City's airport authority has refused to reallocate any of the slots because a judge has not yet declared Aviacsa bankrupt. "It could take years," Garza says.

Garza says Interjet also has asked the airport authority at Monterrey for permission to use some of Aviacsa's check-in counters but this request has been denied for similar legal reason. He says Interjet, which now operates four domestic routes from Monterrey, only has four check-in counters at the airport. He says Aviacsa has 20 check-in counters adjacent to Interjet which are currently unused.

"My customers are waiting in long queues and I have no choice," Garza says. "It's crazy. There are a lot of stupid situations in Mexico."

But Garza is confident eventually Aviacsa's Mexico City slots will be reallocated and other carriers will be able to use the carrier's maintenance hangars and check-in counters. "We have to wait. Patience in Mexico pays eventually," Garza says.