ROUTES: ASUR expects rapid recovery following Mexicana suspension

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Cancun Airport expects a rapid recovery in traffic following the suspension of operations at Mexicana.

Mexicana until late last month operated a mini-hub at Cancun, linking the resort city with five US airports and four airports in Latin America. The customer and route development director of Mexican airport operator ASUR, Alejandro Vales Lehne, says traffic at Cancun in September "will probably be down but not much - probably three to four points at most".

In the key Cancun-US market, traffic is expected to fully recovery by early next year. "The Cancun-to-US routes that Mexicana operated we have other players. We are having increased capacity from them and for those few destinations we haven't we think we will," Lehne says. "We think things will be back to normal by winter if not earlier."

Lehne says ASUR is meeting at the World Route Development Forum with several of its US airline customers about their capacity expansion plans for Cancun. ASUR also recently secured as a new airline Virgin America, which will start serving the Los Angeles-Cancun market in February.

Lehne concedes it may be tougher to fill the void left by Mexicana in the thinner Cancun markets of Bogota, Guatemala City and San Jose in Costa Rica. Unlike any of the US markets these three Latin American markets were exclusively served by Mexicana. Lehne says ASUR is "aiming to recover these" and is talking to Aero Republica and Avianca about taking over the Bogota-Cancun route and to TACA about taking over the Guatemala and San Jose routes.

Domestically, Cancun Airport is also in relatively good shape as other Mexican carriers have responded to the Mexicana suspension by adding capacity from Mexico City and other Mexican cities. Lehne also points out that unlike other Mexican airports, Cancun has a high concentration of traffic from foreign carriers which leaves it in a relatively good position.

ASUR also manages eight smaller airports in southeast Mexico. Lehne says most of these airports are also in relatively good shape but acknowledges that "Big airports will be least affected because they have a market, because they have high yields."