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After Aeromar’s grounding, Mexico’s aviation workers see turbulent horizon

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers of the airline Aeromar hold a banner that reads “Ground personnel in support of pilots” as they stand near the strike flags placed at the counters after the airline ended its operations, at the Benito Juarez International Airport, in M

By Kylie Madry

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – After Mexican regional carrier Aeromar shuttered its operations last week, workers in the country’s aviation sector are bracing for more turbulence as financial, legislative and safety barriers pile on.

While the heavily indebted Aeromar was a relatively small operation compared to peers, its closing is a symptom of a national problem, the flight attendants’ union said Thursday, after a string of other airlines have closed.

In total, Aeromar left behind debts of around 7 billion pesos ($381.28 million), the union said, citing lawyers’ estimates.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last week that Aeromar had been “poorly run” and that unspecified legal action was being taken.

Lopez Obrador also touted the planned purchase of Mexicana, another defunct airline which the government plans to turn into a military-run commercial carrier.

Former Mexicana employees have yet to be liquidated and more than 100 lawsuits remain open from flight attendants’ union members alone, the group said.

“We don’t want that same error to be repeated (with Aeromar),” said union leader Ada Salazar. “In Mexico, remember that legal processes aren’t quick.”

Workers also fear that new legislation could create additional headaches for Mexican aviation.

A proposal to overhaul the sector – which unions and airlines overwhelmingly agree is necessary – is with Congress now, but the sector has spoken out against several of its terms.

Congress also passed a law Thursday giving Mexico’s armed forces a more prominent role in airspace monitoring.

That has caused alarm, as has a measure to allow “cabotage,” or give foreign airlines clearance to operate domestic routes within Mexico.

The chief executive of low-cost carrier Volaris said Thursday industry leaders had told the transportation ministry and lawmakers they “don’t consider the opening of cabotage to be needed.”

The changes are in a bid to recover Mexico’s Category 1 aviation safety rating after being downgraded in May 2021 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Lopez Obrador has argued “cabotage,” as well as the creation of the military-run Mexicana, would benefit consumers.

($1 = 18.3594 Mexican pesos)

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