Not only has Mexican carrier Aeromar survived the recession, but it has done so by expanding.

Gilbert Sedbon/MEXICO CITY

AFTER SURVIVING the Mexican economic crash of 1995, Transportes Aeromar, the country's newest domestic carrier, is back in a growth pattern aimed at breaking through the 1 million passenger mark, possibly within, the next three years.

At one point during the first half of 1995, the airline contemplated firing almost 50% of its 300-strong workforce. Even those pilots working six frequencies a day agreed to a voluntary two-month 20% salary cut, helping to double overall company productivity.

Traffic and prospects picked up in the second half of the year, with passenger numbers for November exceeding the average 1,000 a day target to total 31,141 for the month. Staff, were returned to full salary and achieved a 10% bonus payment at the close of the year.

"We ended the year with nearly 300,000 passengers and made small profits," says Aeromar planning director Juan Rodriguez-Anza. "Our aim is to smash through the million passenger mark over the next three to five years," he adds.


To achieve that goal, Aeromar is spreading its wings by starting direct daily flights with ATR 42-500 turboprops to San Antonio, Texas, from several points in Mexico. In addition, joint venture talks with other carriers, with the aim of forming a major regional grouping, are being negotiated, says director-general Juan Ingnacio Steta.

"We expect to go into joint ventures with several smaller companies shortly, bringing our experience, pooling technical services and even injecting new capital," he says. "Together we will attack the developing domestic and regional markets."

Steta says that Aeromar, which has a fleet of seven ATR 42s, is acquiring an additional three ATR 42-500s, for delivery in 1996, 1997 and 1998. This will maintain the company's record of a new aircraft a year since the privately owned airline was formed in January 1987, beginning operational service later that year.

The company plans to swap all of its ATR 42-320s for ATR 42-500s to support a route network which covers ten destinations in Mexico and, since last December, four new routes to San Antonio from Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Puebla-Monterrey.

The San Antonio route represents Aeromar's first international destination and adds to a domestic network based around Mexico City and Monterry/San Luis Potosi, which embraces 12 towns, including Morelia, Poza Rica, Queretaro, Durango and Salina Cruz.

With this network crisscrossing Mexico, Aeromar has concentrated on business travelers, who now make up 85% of its traffic, with the tourist trade largely accounting for the remaining 15%.

By increasing flight frequencies outside peak hours during the next few months, the airline is hoping to cash in on growing numbers of tourists visiting archeological sites involving Mexico's ancient Maya and Aztec civilisations and the growing number of coastal resorts.

"The Maya route is paying handsome dividends," says Anza. "In due course, while maintaining our business traffic at its high level, we hope to reverse our tourist/business-passenger ratio during off-peak hours," he says.

Aeromar's progress, comes against a background of a Mexican aviation industry, which has teetered on the edge of severe crisis since 1991, when commercial air transport was deregulated by the Government.

Before deregulation, the country boasted a fleet of 84 commercial passenger airliners. By 1993, that number had grown to 235, with new operators acquiring large numbers of second hand aircraft, mainly Boeing 727s and 737s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s. As a result the average Mexican airliner, is now about 20 years old, compared with ten years in 1990.


New operators attempting to establish their own route networks quickly found around only a dozen markets to support profitable services with the 100-seat plus aircraft they had acquired. The result was the worst fares war, in Mexican aviation history, which drove even big airlines such as AeroMexico and Mexicana to the edge of bankruptcy.

Aeromar, which avoided the more dramatic repercussions of the collapse, is now seeking a more secure future by expanding its feeder airline agreement with United Airlines of the USA to several European carriers. It already has marketing alliances with AeroMexico and Mexicana.

Mexico has around 60 airports, of which only ten can support high traffic levels all the year round. The smaller markets have proved unattractive for airlines operating aircraft with more than 100 seats, giving regional airlines operating medium-size aircraft, such as Aeromar, a market niche where they can make profits from using 30- to 50-seat aircraft.

International traffic from Mexico's 60 airports totals 26 million passengers a year, with an annual 16 million passengers a year on domestic routes. "Aeromar is determined to win a big slice in this traffic," says commercial director Javier Warnholtz Torres.

Source: Flight International