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Latino Daily News

Wednesday January 4, 2012

In Protest of Failed Mexican Airline, Pilot Stages Hunger Strike

In Protest of Failed Mexican Airline, Pilot Stages Hunger Strike

Photo: In Protest of Failed Mexican Airline, Pilot Stages Hunger Strike

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A pilot for Mexicana de Aviacion, which stopped flying in 2010, has gone on an indefinite hunger strike to pressure the government to rescue the bankrupt carrier and put its nearly 8,000 employees back to work.

Capt. Rolando Quintana Frias criticized government officials’ “lack of willingness” to help the airline resume operating.

Mexicana, which had been one of Mexico’s two leading airlines, stopped operating on Aug. 28, 2010, along with sister budget carriers Click and Link.

The Mexicana group of airlines filed for bankruptcy protection after racking up an estimated 12 billion pesos ($863 million) in debt.

Quintana Frias, a 35-year Mexicana veteran, started his hunger strike in the first minute of Jan. 1 and vowed not to end it until “officials satisfy our demands.”

“I will continue my hunger strike until officials pay attention to my request and we have a resolution of the conflict,” the pilot told Efe.

Quintana Frias is camping out at the Mexicana de Aviacion counters in Terminal 1 of the Mexico City international airport.

A group of pilots and other employees held a rally in the terminal and handed out fliers that looked like tickets to travelers, urging them to support the effort to revive Mexicana.

Workers plan to take other “drastic measures” so the federal government will pay attention to their plight, flight attendants union secretary-general Ricardo Del Valle told reporters.

“We have asked them for a meeting for a year and they have not even taken one call from us,” Del Valle said.

In November, negotiations on the potential sale of Mexicana de Aviacion broke down after would-be suitor Ivan Barona failed to meet the conditions to complete the transaction.

After analyzing the letter of credit in support of Barona’s $400 million cash pledge, “the conditions required by his financial backer were not met (and) therefore their partnership for the purposes of this (recapitalization plan) is considered terminated,” Mexicana bankruptcy trustee Gerardo Badin said.

Mexicana needs a group of investors willing to take on its heavy debt load and also inject an initial sum of between $150 million and $200 million to return the airline to the skies.