Restructuring ignites again Mexican flag carrier's plans to replace ageing airliners

Airbus and Boeing are preparing to fire the opening shots in a campaign to capture the first orders from Mexican airline Aeromexico after the dissolution of holding company Cintra last year.

Aeromexico has reactivated a long-anticipated fleet renewal plan after its original scheme stalled while the Mexican government attempted to merge it with Mexicana through the Cintra initiative. The manufacturers are preparing bids covering 15 aircraft, although the eventual requirement is "in the order of 60 aircraft", says Airbus senior vice-president sales Rafael Alonso.

Aeromexico's priority is to replace its ageing McDonnell Douglas DC-9s, with Airbus proposing its A320 family and Boeing the 737.

The carrier is traditionally a Boeing and McDonnell Douglas operator, while Mexicana is firmly in the Airbus camp. Mexicana operates 27 A320 family aircraft and plans to introduce up to another seven this year, says Alonso. The aircraft are replacing Boeing 727-200s and could include an improved performance variant of the A321-200, which Alonso says is being specifically developed for the hot-and-high conditions in Mexicana's route network. Boeing declines to comment on the Aeromexico contest, while Alonso admits that overcoming Boeing's incumbency "is going to be a challenge".

Aeromexico is expected to be the first of a number of Latin American campaigns. A win is viewed as particularly vital for Boeing. Overall, Airbus predicts demand for around 700 aircraft in the region over 10 years, of which more than 100 are already in the order backlog. Boeing forecasts a similar pattern of demand for up to 2,000 aircraft over 20 years "most of which we think will be needed in the second decade", says Boeing Latin American sales vice-president Dan da Silva.

The Central and South American market has proven more resilient to the downturn, says da Silva, citing little change in the year-on-year average passenger growth for the region, which continues to be around 7.7%, against 4.8% for the world as a whole.

Despite a string of Airbus wins in Latin America, Boeing claims 142, or 59%, of the 239 new aircraft delivered to the region from 1992 to 2001, against 97, or 41% for Airbus. Airbus figures reflect direct sales, while Boeing's numbers include a large number of aircraft (62%) flying in the region on operating leases.

Source: Flight International