Mexico's Aeromar to introduce CRJ200s

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Mexican regional carrier Aeromar has selected the Bombardier CRJ200 as its first jet and expects to initially lease two ex-Jazz CRJ200s from GECAS.

Aeromar president Ami Lindenberg says the carrier has decided to incorporate CRJ200s as a second aircraft type alongside its 14 ATR 42 turboprops. He says after evaluating several available CRJ200s, it has selected two 2001 aircraft that Jazz removed from service in May.

The aircraft are now being worked on in Arizona and should be ready for re-delivery to Aeromar in the fourth quarter of this year.

"We are now in advanced negotiations with principally GECAS in order to lease our first two aircraft," Lindenberg tells ATI. "We hope by the end of next week to sign a contract with GECAS for the first two aircraft for a five-year term."

Aeromar aims to place the two aircraft into service in October and November. Lindenberg says the carrier's new business plan envisions leasing three more CRJ200s for a total of five aircraft. He expects Aeromar will lease its third CRJ200 in mid 2011 although currently it is only ready to commit to two aircraft.

Lindenberg says Aeormar will most likely initially use the CRJ200 to replace the ATR 42 on its longest route, Mexico City to Saltillo. He says the CRJ200 is more economical and provides a better service on this thrice daily route as the route can be shortened from about 130 to 90 minutes by replacing the ATR.

Aeromar's only international route, a once weekly service between San Louis Potosi and San Antonio, is also about 130 minutes long. Lindenberg says this route could potentially be upgraded to a CRJ200 and expanded with more frequencies.

He says Aeromar has several other domestic routes in the 100 to 120 minute range which may also be upgraded to the CRJ200. But all routes of less than 90 minutes will continue to be operated by the ATR given the turboprop's superior operating economics on short routes.

"We are a very loyal customer of ATR and really appreciate the airplanes. They are great for our market. This is our core business today and we'll continue to develop the fleet," Lindenberg says.

He says Aeromar has been working on bringing CRJ200s to its fleet for three months. But the carrier held back in finalising the plan until it was able to negotiate a new contract with its pilots. A new pilot contract was signed in mid June "and then we were able to finally reconfirm we are going this way".

Aeromar initially looked at CRJ200s back in 2006. But Lindenberg says after several new carriers launched in 2006, including CRJ200 operator ALMA, Aeromar "decided to postpone the plan".

ALMA ceased operations in 2008. Avolar, Aerocalifornia and Aviacsa also have exited Mexico's domestic market over the last two years, giving Aeromar an opportunity to reconsider expansion.

Lindenberg says Mexico's domestic market has still not fully recovered from the crisis of the last two years but "we see a small recovery and we see new opportunities. That's why we decided to do it [add CRJ200s] now. This is the correct time. We see the current crisis is less severe than a year ago and we hope to have no new crisis and expect the real recovery will begin in 2011".

Aeromar codeshare partner Grupo Mexicana also saw an opportunity in the regional market last year and launched Mexicana Link with a fleet of used CRJ200s. Link currently operates 15 CRJ200s.

Lindenberg sees Aeromar's CRJ200s as complementing Link and says he made sure to speak with Mexicana early on about Aeromar's CRJ200 plan. "They accepted it very well," he says. "We're now working on a tentative plan to coordinate on the logistics part."

Lindenberg says Aeromar will maintain its CRJ200s in-house using its heavy maintenance hangar at Mexico City rather than use Mexicana, which has introduced CRJ200 maintenance capabilities at its Guadalajara facility. But the carriers will likely share spare parts.

"Aeromar is an airline that is not wiling to fight anyone," Lindenberg says.