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Mexico City's old airport told to cut flights by 17%, leading airlines to warn of mass cancellations


MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government ordered Mexico City’s old airport to cut flights by 17% Thursday, sparking warnings by airlines of possible mass flight cancellations.

The new rules scheduled to take effect by Oct. 29 would require the terminal to reduce the number of flights per hour at the airport from 52 to 43. The airport has a design capacity of around 61 flights per hour, but that has already been cut to 52 previously.

The airport has maintenance problems, including flooding or sewage smells in some areas. But the country’s airline industry chamber says that’s because the government took away the terminal's revenues to pay for an airport project elsewhere that was later cancelled.

The National Air Transport Chamber said the new rules for the Mexico City International Airport, or AICM, would hurt passengers, airlines and industry workers.

“This unexpected reduction planned to start on Oct. 29 will imply the need to massively cancel flights, including for passengers who have already bought tickets,” the chamber said in a statement. “The real problem of the AICM is that the revenue it generates is not invested in its infrastructure.”

When President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in late 2018, he immediately cancelled his predecessor's partly-built project of a new, larger terminal in the nearby township of Texcoco.

Instead, López Obrador built another new terminal at an army airbase much further to the north, but passengers and airlines have been loathe to switch to the Felipe Angeles airport, because it's farther away.

Eager to portray his new Felipe Angeles terminal as a cheaper option than finishing the Texcoco project, López Obrador did not use government money to pay off investors and contractors owed for work done on the abandoned project. Instead, fees from the older, inner-city airport were used to pay them off, rather than being invested in maintenance or improvements.

López Obrador is also eager to force airlines and passengers to switch to his new but under-used Felipe Angeles terminal. Industry sources said that may have been one of the reasons behind the new flight limitation rules, though the president cited safety reasons.

López Obrador seemed to confirm Thursday that his new airport will benefit from the new rules.

“Given that we have the Felipe Angeles airport, which fortunately has (under used) capacity, well, that's the way we are going to solve it,” he said.