Why Aeromexico Didn’t Exist For 6 Months In 1988

Back in 1988, there was a time where Aeromexico ceased to exist. From 15 April to 1 October of that year, the airline went into bankruptcy, stopped flying, and disappeared altogether. Then, it was reborn. Well, not exactly. Let’s investigate further. 

Aeroméxico B737 NG y Aeroméxico Connect Embraer
Aeromexico ceased to exist for six months in 1988. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying

How was Aeromexico born?

Aeromexico was born in September 1934. Its original name was Aeronaves de Mexico, and it would keep it until the seventies. While it wasn’t one of the first airlines to appear in Latin America, currently, it can be considered as of the oldest still active, behind Avianca, LATAM, Aeropostal Alas, and Cubana de Aviación. 

Along with its historic rival, Mexicana, the two were the leading airlines in the country. Both airlines grew exponentially, scheduling flights to the US and Europe. At the same time, both captured the essence of luxury that we now remember in the air industry during the last century. 

But under the surface, Aeromexico was in deep trouble. In 1959, the Mexican Government acquired, by decree, all the shares of Aeromexico. 

Over the next two decades, the airline soared the skies, until a crisis hit Mexico in 1982. That year the Mexican peso devalued 470%. During the next six years, the peso fell even more. In a nutshell: a dollar in 1982 cost 46 pesos; in 1988, it was valued in 2,298 pesos. This one was of the first nails in the coffin of the first Aeromexico. The other was corruption. 

Corruption was, in part, responsible for the disappearance of Aeromexico. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons.

Corruption played a part in the tragedy

Francisco McGregor, a former pilot of Aeromexico in the eighties, wrote last week

“It wasn’t a secret that the airline paid wages to people who weren’t in the company, from politicians to artists.” 

The former Captain of Aeromexico added that, by the eighties, the airline was among the least punctual in the world. It lacked operative efficiency and had a lousy administration led by the Mexican Government. 

Aeromexico paid one of the highest rental fees in the industry at the time. It even lent some of its planes to make presidential trips, which also hit the airline’s schedules, said McGregor. 

But the final blow for the airline didn’t come from here. It came from the ground workers. Their union started a strike in 1988, and the Government seized the moment and declared the airline in bankruptcy. 

The new Aeromexico is not the same company as the old Aeromexico. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons.

How did it fly again?

On 7 September 1988, a new Aeromexico was born. But this time it wasn’t Aeronaves de Mexico as it was before. It changed its name to Aerovías de México. So, in essence, it was a new airline. It adopted the brand, logo, and livery of the old Aeromexico, though. Kind of what may happen with the new Eastern Airlines

The relaunch of Aeromexico was made possible due to an alliance between the Government, that had recently allowed the former airline to collapse, and the pilots union in Mexico. The new airline started operations on 1 October 1988. It had a fleet of 25 airplanes and a workforce of 3,500 employees. 

The priorities at that moment were the consolidation of the business model, improvement in punctuality, reliability, luggage management, and onboard service. In 1995 Aeromexico bought Mexicana de Aviación, and both airlines almost disappeared again after a new economic crisis hit the country.

Eventually, the Government purchased both carriers. Finally, in 2007, a group of private investors bought Aeromexico. Since then, not much has changed in this regard. Aeromexico remains as the most important airline in the country for international operations. Nevertheless, it has taken a step back in the domestic market, unable to face the growth of the low-cost model in Volaris, Interjet, and Viva Aerobus.

What do you think of Aeromexico’s history? Let us know in the comments.