July 23, 2009

Mexico grounds seven discount airlines

Mexico has grounded seven discount airlines for safety violations and failing to pay government fees on time, the country's airline regulator says.

Four airlines, including one that flies to Las Vegas, were grounded after failing maintenance checks, Gerardo Sanchez Henkel, the head of enforcement at Mexico's Communications and Transportation Department, tells USA Today.

Three other discount airlines were grounded because they didn't pay government fees on time, he said.

Safety and financial issues are important Sanchez Henkel told the newspaper.

If any ... airline has a problem with debts, then we're going to take note, he said. If we're seen as too severe, so be it.

He added, This is not harassment.

The safety issues center on discount airlines that largely operate domestic routes.

Mexico's two largest and most established airlines, Mexicana and AeroMexico, are still operating.

The shutdown airlines Azteca Airlines, charter carrier Republic Air, Aero California, Avolar Aerolineas, Nova Air, Magnicharters and Aviacsa.

Aviacsa, which operated a daily Mexico City-Las Vegas flight, was grounded last month after inspectors found 280 separate problems with the company's planes, Sanchez Henkel said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration also barred Aviacsa from flying in the United States at Mexico's request.

Aviacsa resumed flying after a court overturned the suspension, but was grounded again July 6 due to $21 million in late air-traffic control fees, USA Today said.

Three discount carriers, Volaris, Interjet and VivaAerobus, are still flying.