Mexicana seals deal for up to 15 CRJ200s: Borja

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Mexicana will take delivery of the first of up to 15 Bombardier CRJ200s at the end of this week as it gears up to launch a new regional carrier in Guadalajara

The airline group unveiled plans early this month to launch on 15 March a new regional carrier with a fleet of 13 leased second-hand CRJ200s. CEO Manuel Borja says the carrier has now concluded a deal with Bombardier covering the lease of 13 CRJ200s with options for an additional two.

"The deal is for 13 plus a couple of options. They'd be willing to give us two more," Borja told ATI in an interview yesterday at Mexicana's Mexico City headquarters.

He adds "going from 13 to 15 is probable" with the two extra aircraft likely to be delivered by the end of this year.

Mexicana's first CRJ200, which will have an all-economy configuration with 50 seats, is scheduled to arrive in Mexico on 27 February. "We'll start flying with two and in the process of six months incorporate the rest," Borja says.

Borja says most of the CRJ200s will be based at Guadalajara, where Mexicana already has a secondary hub with several domestic and US services. "The purpose of this airline is to be a feeder for the Guadalajara hub," he says. "We believe there are some routes, some destinations from Guadalajara which are viable for 50-seaters."

But Borja adds some CRJ200s will also be operated from Monterrey although it has not yet decided exactly how many will be based there. "Monterrey is an important destination for us. We'll develop a secondary hub from Monterrey," he says.

Grupo Mexicana has established a new company called Mexicana Inter to oversee the new regional operation. But the new carrier will not be branded Mexicana Inter. The brand will be revealed at an event in Guadalajara on 10 March and services will be launched a few days later.

Mexicana selected Guadalajara over Cancun and Leon as the base for the new regional carrier after being offered attractive deals from the state government of Jalisco and Guadalajara airport operator GAP. In addition to the hub, Mexicana has committed to establishing a CRJ maintenance base at Guadalajara with line, light and heavy airframe maintenance capabilities.

For now Mexicana plans to keep the new regional operation relatively small and has no plans to go beyond 13 to 15 aircraft. "In this stage we'll see how we do with these planes and see how the market reacts," Borja explains.

While the aircraft are not owned by Bombardier, Borja says the deal is "directly with Bombardier". He declined to disclose where the aircraft were coming from due to a non-disclosure agreement in the contract.

Borja says Mexicana did not consider acquiring turboprops for the new regional operation, explaining: "Turboprops at $150 per barrel makes more sense. At $50 per barrel jets makes more sense. Jets are more comfortable, are faster and fly higher. And we feel we're getting a good deal with Bombardier."

He says Grupo Mexicana is keen to add 50-seat regional jets even as the type becomes less popular in other markets such as the US because there are several domestic routes in Mexico which are not dense enough for larger aircraft. The smallest aircraft in the Grupo Mexicana fleet is now 100 seats.

"In Mexico we believe there's a lot of destinations where having a smaller aircraft makes sense," Borja says. "What is important is having the correct size planes for the right markets."