Ten ALMA CRJs still trapped in Mexico

Mexico City
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A group of lessors including GECAS continue to fight for the repossession of 10 Bombardier CRJ100/200 regional jets formerly operated by Mexican regional carrier ALMA.

ALMA shut down in November but Mexican industry sources say 10 of the carrier's aircraft have not yet been released by the administrator or court overseeing ALMA's bankruptcy.

One source says the 10 aircraft "are trapped" as part of labour dispute with ALMA's unions. The unions, representing employees which never received their final salaries, have claimed the aircraft belong to ALMA. While it is clear the aircraft are actually owned by leasing companies, the dispute has delayed their release.

GECAS owns most of the aircraft and has been trying to legally get the aircraft back. Other sources tell ATI the other aircraft are owned by two or three other leasing companies including Bombardier Capital.

ATI understands the bankruptcy proceeding should end soon, perhaps as early as the end of the week, at which point the aircraft will finally be released. The proceeding is complicated as Mexico's labour department has had to get involved after the union made its claim. Mexican sources explain the proceeding also has been slowed as the administrator and courts involved have struggled to figure out what assets ALMA still has.

Sources say the Government and Mexico's aviation industry overall want to see a quick release of the aircraft because they believe the mess at ALMA could make it more difficult for Mexican airlines to lease aircraft in the future.

"We're worried about that situation because it could affect the relationships other airlines have with lessors," one source says. "It may be seen as high risk to put aircraft in Mexico."

ALMA also has debts with Mexico's air traffic control provider and airport operators. The carrier was operating about 15 CRJs when it filed for bankruptcy in November. Sources say a few aircraft were released after one leasing company was able to get ALMA to sign documents outlining the early return of the aircraft.