Mexicana looks to expand Airbus relationship with A350s

By Brendan Sobie

Mexicana is evaluating the Airbus A350 as it looks to further expand its new long-haul network.

CEO Manuel Borja told reporters at a press conference today in Mexico City to announce Mexicana joining the Airbus MRO network that the carrier is "considering" acquiring A350s.

"We're following development of the aircraft very closely," Borja says. "It's a strong possibility we will migrate [from the A330] to the A350."

Mexicana took delivery in December of two new leased A330s and the aircraft were used earlier this month to launch service to Madrid from Mexico City. Borja says "we are happy with the plane" and Mexicana will look to add A330s as its new transatlantic operation expands.

"When we decided on the A330 we considered the A330 as the airplane we will use to grow the widebody fleet in the future," Borja says.

Airbus SVP services and customer support Bruce Jones adds: "Mexicana has already shown great competency managing and operating their A330s and we hope that translates to more long-haul Airbus aircraft in their fleet."

Borja says today's announcement that Mexicana will join the Airbus MRO network "fortifies our relationship with Airbus". Mexicana is now the second largest Airbus operator in Latin America after Brazil's TAM and currently operates 60 Airbus A320 family aircraft in addition to the two A330s.

The carrier took delivery of a new A319 earlier this week and continues to add new A320 family aircraft at regular intervals. However, this year all the new A320s are being used to replace older A320s, and for now the carrier plans to keep the total A320 figure at 60, including 30 A320s, 20 A319s and 10 A318s.

Jones says as Latin America's first Airbus operator, Mexicana "clearly meets the benchmarks" required to join the Airbus MRO Network.

"The addition of Mexicana enhances the customer choice of experienced MRO providers in the region," Jones told reporters.

Previously El Salvador's Aeroman was the only full Latin American member of the Airbus MRO Network. With the Airbus fleet in Latin America tripling in recent years to about 350 aircraft and further growth expected despite the economic downturn, Jones says Mexicana is an important addition to the network.

"With the growth in this region we're looking at 1,500 aircraft within the next 20 years, with 500 being in Mexico," Jones says.

The airline already overhauls A320s for several third party customers including Air France and Air Jamaica and is now preparing to add an A330 heavy maintenance capability.

Mexicana only has four Boeing aircraft in its fleet, all 767s which are used for services to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and London Gatwick. But the carrier does not plan to keep its 767s over the long term and will likely eventually switch to an all A330 and perhaps an all A350 widebody fleet.

Mexicana, which before last month did not serve any destinations in Europe, has long-term ambitions to add more transatlantic services. But additional routes are not expected to be unveiled this year. Borja says long-haul expansion will be studied at the end of 2009, and what decisions are made at that point will depend on the economy and aircraft availability.

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