Mexicana de Aviación (commonly known by the shorter name Mexicana) is Mexico's second largest airline company, after Aeroméxico, and the world's third oldest airline still using its original name, after Holland's KLM and Colombia's Avianca. The airline uses the IATA designator MX.
XA-MEX, a Mexicana DC-10 at Benito Juárez International Airport, 1985, with Aeroméxico DC-9 on background. Courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Mr. Jorge Rocafort
Mexicana was founded July 12, 1921, under the name Compañía Mexicana de Transportación Aérea, (CMTA) as a money carrier to oil fields near the city of Tampico, on the Gulf of Mexico. Mexicana's first plane was a Lincoln standard, a two-seat biplane. While the pilot maneuvered over the oil fields, the passenger in the back seat dropped a heavy bag containing the weekly payment for the oilers.
The 1920s were groundbreaking times for the airline, with air mail service being established and services like aerial photography being undertaken. In 1929, Pan Am took over the majority of the airline's stock, and the airline opened its first international route, with service to the United States. Mexicana used the historic Ford Tri-Motor plane for the route flown from Mexico City to Brownsville, Texas, with stops at Tuxpan and Tampico. Mexicana's first pilot was none other than the legendary Charles Lindbergh himself.
The 1930s saw route expansion and service improvement. Mexicana opened a route from Brownsville to Guatemala City, stopping over at Veracruz, Minatitlán, Iztepec and Tapachula. In addition, flights were started to El Salvador, Costa Rica and Cuba, and the association with Pan Am gave them access to Nicaragua and Panama too, through Pan Am's Miami base. (Pan Am had undertaken flights from Mexico City to Miami.) Mexicana also became then the first foreign airline ever to fly to Los Angeles.
The fleet also saw growth during that decade, eight Fairchild FC2s and 3 Fokker F10s being added.
The 1940s were more of a domestic growth period, although a service was established from Mexico City to Havana. Routes were opened for the first time to Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, and Mérida, as well as a night flight to Los Angeles. The Mérida flights were also flown at night. Mexicana initially used DC-2s for these flights but, as time went by, DC-3s were acquired and, later, DC-4s. The DC-3s became known as El Palacio Aéreo. (The Air Palace). The DC-4 allowed Mexicana to fly non-stop from Mexico City to Los Angeles for the first time. Mexicana was also able to create a certified pilots school in Mexico City.
The 1950s saw the airline's growth slow a little, but DC-6s were welcomed to the fleet, and a flight attendant school was opened. The DC-6s were put to work on the Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City to Oaxaca routes.
In the 1960s, four De Havilland Comets were bought and flown over from London and Mexicana entered the jet age on July 4, 1960. Since Mexicana was still part of Pan Am, these Comets were intended to replace Boeing 707s should this type not fulfill the expectations of Pan Am's owner, Juan Trippe. Competition grew stiff, however, and by the late 1960s Mexicana was almost forced into bankruptcy. In 1967 however, Mexicana received its first Boeing 727, and along with a new administration and strategic plans, the airline was able to recover from its economic problems soon after.
In 1968, the stock owned by Pan Am was entirely bought over and Mexicana became once again a 100-percent Mexican company.
1969 was a tragic year for Mexicana, for it lost two 727s in air crashes.
In 1971, Mexicana started flights to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a route it would maintain for more than 25 years without interruption, and to Denver, Colorado. The jet fleet kept expanding and eventually they had 19 jets, the largest jet fleet in Latin America at the time. They also started a flight simulator service with a 727 simulator at their hub in Benito Juárez International Airport. The Denver route stopped over at Mazatlán. By this time Mexicana had the largest fleet of 727s outside the USA.
The 1980s for Mexicana were almost inactive, however, a few events touched the company: In 1981, 3 DC-10-15s were received and began making their way through the airline's Caribbean routes. In 1982, the Mexican government acquired 54 percent of the airline. In 1984, a huge building with Mexicana's central offices as well as control tower 30 stories high and a heliport was unveiled south of Mexico City. In March 1986, tragedy struck, as a Mexicana Boeing 727 en route to Puerto Vallarta suddenly caught fire and crashed onto the mountains of western Mexico, killing every passenger and crew member on the flight. This is the most recent accident involving a Mexicana aircraft.
For Mexicana, the 1990s kept bringing changes. In 1991 French Airbus A320s came to the airline, as well as Fokker 100s in 1992, In 1993 AeroMéxico took over. Then Cintra was formed, later in 1997 the Boeing 757s came.. Mexicana launched a website (www.mexicana.com), and formed an alliance with United Airlines. It also had the honor of transporting Pope John Paul II when he flew from Mexico City to St. Louis, Missouri, and formed alliances with Air Canada, Varig and Air New Zealand. It also began a program to assist families of people involved in air disasters.
Mexicana would later obtain a certificate to perform maintenance jobs on the new European planes on their fleet.
On April 28, 2003, a Mexicana de Aviación Airbus jet was forced to land at San Francisco International Airport after the pilot accidentally set off the airplane's anti-terrorism alarm.
2004 was an important year for Mexicana since it marked the return of wide body jets to its fleet. The airline acquired one Boeing 767-300ER from SAS. The airplane (XA-MXB "Buenos Aires") flies non-stop to Los Angeles and Buenos Aires.
Mexicana's livery consists of an all white fuselage, with the word Mexicana written in italics under the passenger windows, near the plane's cockpit. The tail colors are dark blue Aztec pattern on medium green background and the Mexicana eagle head logo in white.
Boeing 767-300 ER and 757s, Airbus 320, 319 and 318 and Fokker F100. Boeing 727s were withdrawn from service on May 31, 2003.
All over Mexico, and to various points in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
Other facts of interest
- Mexicana was featured prominently on the 2001 Hollywood production The Mexican.
- Mexicana employed Puerto Rican actress Margot Deben to advertise the airline on Puerto Rican television. Deben said that she goes to Mexico on Mexicana to shop and shop (more).
- Mexicana was the main sponsor of soccer team Chivas de Guadalajara for a period, and their planes were showcased on the team's uniforms. Conversely, some of Mexicana's airplanes were painted in the team's colors.
- Official site (http://www.mexicana.com/)
- Mexicana crashes (http://www.airdisaster.com/cgi_bin/airline_detail.cgi?airline=Mexicana+Airlines)