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Struggling airline Mexicana to halt all operations

Mexicana Airlines said Friday that it would suspend all flights as of Saturday morning, citing a “grave deterioration of finances” at Mexico’s largest airline.

Mexicana, the largest foreign carrier at Los Angeles International Airport, filed for bankruptcy protection Aug. 3, after announcing a cutback in service in the U.S. because of financial problems.

The situation got worse Friday. Mexicana posted a statement on its website saying it was planning to suspend all operations, including domestic flights operated by sister company MexicanaLink and MexicanaClick.

“Unfortunately, various factors have come together that make it impossible to continue Grupo Mexicana’s operations,” the statement said in Spanish. “Grupo Mexicana deeply regrets the inconvenience this will mean for their clients.” The airline referred all calls from passengers to a call center.

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In the first six months of the year, Mexicana transported more than 240,000 passengers from LAX. Several other airlines — including Aeromexico and U.S. carriers such as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways — continue to fly to cities throughout Mexico.

A spokesman for LAX said the airline was expecting to operate 10 flights Friday but airport operation officials had not been contacted by Mexicana about any changes in operations. “They didn’t notify our airfield operations,” spokesman Harold Johnson said.

A group of investors, called Tenedora K, acquired a majority stake in the company that owns Mexicana on Aug. 20, and the country’s pilots union holds 5%. Mexicana filed for protection from creditors in Mexico and the U.S. after executives said they failed to reach cost-saving agreements with labor unions.

Tenedora K will seek additional capital to inject into the company, Mexican Communications and Transportation Minister Juan Molinar Horcasitas told reporters in Mexico City on Friday.

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Tenedora K, which was formed to buy Mexicana, said last week that the purchase was “the first step in order to establish the conditions that will eventually allow for a process of restructuring.”

The Mexican companies Grupo Industrial Omega and Grupo Arizan are among Tenedora K’s investors, according to a statement. The sellers included Grupo Posadas, Mexico’s largest hotel operator.

Jack Richards, president of the Pleasant Holidays travel agency, said he had heard nothing from the airline but was working hard to get his customers on flights with other airlines.

“They don’t answer their phones,” he said of Mexicana.

As for refunds for passengers with tickets on the Mexican airline, Richards said, “I don’t know who passengers can get a refund from. The airline is in bankruptcy.”

Jorge Gamboa, director of the Los Angeles office of the Mexico Tourism Board, called the news of Mexicana’s service suspension a “great loss” and said he hoped another airline might fill the gap soon to fly visitors to and from Mexico.

Bloomberg news was used in compiling this report.

Hugo.martin@latimes.com

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