Aviacsa Pt2: Pakal Falls
Thanks to Denny Payne for providing photos of his Aviacsa 737 for this post
For part 1 of this series see:
As 2001 dawned Aviacsa was in the midst of its fleet ‘renewal’ using relatively old but no doubt well maintained 737-200 Advanceds sourced from Air New Zealand. Three had arrived along with a pair of ex-TAESA series 2T4s and in February 2001 a single series 205. The 737s introduced a new simplified livery. Gone were the blue cheatlines and golden Pakal on the tail. These were replaced by a grey bellied mainly white scheme with a thin blue cheatline and new blue Pakal on the tail – plus a new smiley face under the nose.
The rest of the fleet consisted of 727-200s, several of which had been equipped with winglets, plus a pair of DC-9-15s. As further 737-200s joined the fleet during 2002 (6 ex-Piedmont and US Air 737-201s) the DC-9s were retired along with several of the 727s.
Obviously the early years of the century were difficult for airlines following the 9/11 attacks but once again Aviacsa was able to make lemonade from the situation and actually grew its operations, doubling the number of passengers and tripling its fleet to 2003. By then it offered direct service to 15 mexican destinations from both Monterrey and Mexico City with a total of 18 destinations within Mexico. US destinations had grown to include Chicago as well as Los Angeles and Miami.
Operating over 120 flights a day and flying about 200,000 passengers a month the fleet stood at 21 737-200s and 6 727-200s by year end. The carrier had also benefitted from the opening of its own maintenance facility in 2000 plus a partnership with Pratt & Whitney from 2003 for engine repairs in Mexico City. Compliant unions had also enabled Aviacsa to get its pilots to fly 15% more than those of competing airlines. This caused some discord but Aviacsa was able to fire and replace those pilots with others from failed competitors. Further attempts by the pilots to change their union were caught up in litigation.
Aviacsa’s survival and growth was aided by the continuing weakness of competitors. TAESA had gone bankrupt in 2000, whilst two other 1990s startups, Allegro and Aerolíneas Internacionales, had both failed by mid-2004. In fact in 2003 Aviacsa was the only one of Mexico’s 13 airlines to be profitable. Nonetheless new startups kept appearing, like Azteca and Avolar but it wasn’t these airlines that would provide the largest threat to Aviacsa.
The years 2004-2005 represented the pinnacle of Aviacsa’s growth. Passengers numbers rose by 37% and Aviacsa had acquired a 12% stake of the Mexican domestic scene, but 21% of the market to the 18 destinations it served. The airline began to feel like a grown up and indeed although it had been low fares it had never really been low cost.
In 2005 plans were announced for the acquisition of 20 further 737s at a cost of $80 million. Although this sounds impressive these were once again second-hand aircraft. They would however enable the opening of routes like Puebla-Monterrey-New York. In May a 737-200 was specially painted to celebrate the airline’s 15th anniversary and flown around the airline’s network.
Even as it ended 2005 transporting 3.5 million passengers thunderclouds were on the horizon. In August 2005 operations began at Volaris, followed in December by Interjet. These airlines were truly low cost and had much better financing, which enabled them to buy new Airbus jets rather than old Boeing 737s.
The first ‘new’ 737-300s arrived in August 2006 but only 4 were ever acquired. In fact following these deliveries reverted back to elderly series 200s – 6 arriving in late 2007. The series 300s did at least allow the retirement of the last 727s in May 2006 and at the same time a new billboard AVIACSA.com livery was introduced – retaining Pakal on the tail and the smile on the nose.
It is hard for me to talk about the validity of the groundings however it is reasonably clear that Aviacsa, although able to outcompete early competitors was ill prepared to face better financed and truly low cost airlines such as Interjet and Volaris. Sunsequently these airlines have grown easily to fill the void left by Aviacsa but nonetheless it was an important airline during the 2nd phase of the deregulation era.
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: