Mexicana names new regional carrier Link

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Grupo Mexicana has unveiled a name for its new regional carrier, which will launch services at the beginning of next week with ex-Chautauqua Airlines Bombardier CRJ200s operating from Guadalajara to Monterrey and Puerto Vallarta.

Mexicana first unveiled plans early last month to establish a new Guadalajara-based company to operate regional routes using 13 leased second-hand CRJ200s. The company's commercial name is Mexicana Inter but today at a Guadalajara launch event Mexicana unveiled an operating name and brand for the new regional unit - Mexicana Link.

Mexicana says Link will begin services on 16 March with four daily flights from Guadalajara to Monterrey, and four daily flights from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta.

Two more routes will be added on 1 April - Guadalajara to Puebla and Veracruz. Each of these will be served twice daily.

These are four of 25 routes Grupo Mexicana initially identified last month for the new regional operation. Many of the routes were formerly served by ALMA, an independent Mexican regional carrier which ceased operations last November.

Of the first four routes, only Guadalajara-Veracruz currently does not have any non-stop service. According to Innovata, Mexicana Link will compete against Volaris on Guadalajara-Puebla, against Aeromexico Connect on Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta and against Aeromexico Connect, Aviacsa and Interjet on Guadalajara-Monterrey.

The launch of Link is expected to increase competition between the country's two flag carriers as previously Mexicana did not operate any aircraft with fewer than 100 seats, leaving Aeromexico with a monopoly on many thin domestic routes. Aeromexico's Monterrey-based regional unit Aeromexico Connect, formerly known as Aerolitoral, operates 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145s along with 90-seat Embraer E-190s and is currently in the process of expanding both of these fleets.

Mexicana says Link is expected to transport about 800,000passengers in its first year. Link has already hired 250 employees, mostly crew who previously flew for ALMA, and plans to hire another 250.

Link will launch operations with two CRJ200s. Mexicana CEO Manuel Borja last month told ATI the carrier had concluded a lease deal for 13 CRJ200s plus two options with all aircraft to be delivered within six months. Borja said while the contract is directly with Bombardier the aircraft are not owned by the manufacturer.

According to industry sources, all the CRJ200s are owned by the Export Development Canada and were formerly operated by Chautauqua Airlines in the Continental Airlines network. Chautauqua parent Republic Airways last year said it was planning to return 24 CRJ200s flown for Continental as their leases expired, including seven in 2008, 10 in 2009 and seven in 2010.

Mexicana Link will follow a feeder carrier business model and is designed to help Mexicana expand its Guadalajara hub. Link specifically will feed 12 international routes operated at Guadalajara by Mexicana mainline as well as longer-haul domestic routes operated by Mexicana mainline and the group's low-cost unit Click.