Mexicana Surpasses Alitalia as the Worst Airline Ever

Today is an historic day. For the first time in years, Alitalia is no longer the worst airline ever. Mexicana’s slow and painful demise has caused so many problems for so many people that the airline has won its place as the new worst airline ever. I know, you’ll need a moment to take it all in.

Mexicana Passes Alitalia as Worst Airline Ever

If you haven’t been following the south-of-the-border saga, you can start with my earlier post from a couple weeks ago. In short, Mexicana is trying to play a shell game. There are three airlines under the Mexicana name. Mexicana Click is the low cost carrier that flies domestically. Mexicana Link buzzes around with 50 seat regional jets. And then there’s Compañía Mexicana de Aviación.

Compañía Mexicana de Aviación is the original Mexicana and because of that, it has a lot of baggage. The labor costs are very high and the debt is stifling, so the airline filed for bankruptcy. What’s the solution? It appears to be that the goal is to crush labor and wipe the debt from the existing company and transfer everything to the lower cost Mexicana Click. That airline will then come out of the ashes as the new Mexicana. At least, that’s how it looks to me.

That’s all fairly shady in its own right, but it’s what’s happened since the bankruptcy filing that has rocketed the airline into the stratosphere of suck. Mexicana has been trying to set up Click from an IT perspective so that it can handle many of the same functions that Mexicana handles today. It’s taking a long time. In the meantime, the airline has actually stopped taking bookings but continues to fly. Yep, that’s right. Airplanes are flying but no new bookings are coming in.

That is insane in its own right, but it causes additional problems as well. Mexicana has already had some aircraft repossessed, expects to return 40% of its fleet to lessors, and hasn’t been running a full schedule. Originally, the affected flights were canceled through August, but now they are canceled “until new notice.” What the heck? This includes flights to London, Madrid, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, San José (Costa Rica), Caracas, Bogotá, Montreal, Vancouver, San Antonio, Chicago and Fresno. This is where it gets absolutely insane. Though flights are canceled until new notice, they aren’t actually canceled yet. They’re sitting in limbo and that means passengers are in a terrible place.

I’ll give you the example of a Cranky Concierge client whose parents are taking their lifelong dream trip to Spain in September. They are booked on Mexicana and would like to change, but Mexicana hasn’t officially canceled the flights yet.

What’s the upshot here? Mexicana says that it will not issue a refund because the flights haven’t really been canceled, and they won’t put passengers on another airline for the same reason. They say that they will only put passengers on another airline within 7 days of travel. Could that be any more maddening?

If the airline would just admit that it doesn’t have the planes to fly this route and canceled further in the advance, then it would give the passengers time to find alternates. But saying that passengers will only be reaccommodated within a week means there will be very few if any options available.

If you’re booked on Mexicana, this is like watching a train come at you in slow motion and you can’t move out of the way. You know your flight will be canceled, but there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it because the airline is holding your money hostage.

Sure, you can buy a new ticket, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back for the old one. If Mexicana does miraculously fly those flights, you’ll be out of luck. And you can’t dispute it with your credit card until the flight has canceled. It’s a no-win situation for passengers.

This kind of behavior from an airline is just like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Forget about being held hostage on the airplane. We need regulation preventing an airline from keeping your money and your travel plans hostage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blatant disregard for customers on a broad scale like this before. And unlike Alitalia, I’ve actually flown this airline and had an absolutely horrendous experience that simply adds to the case.

That is why Mexicana is the worst airline in the world. Even if the announced sale of the airline is actually true, there’s a lot of work to be done to get the airline out of this pit. I know Italians are cheering everywhere that their airline has climbed out of the cellar. But just remember, if Mexicana goes under, the title reverts back to you. So don’t get too cocky, Alitalia.

[Original photo via Flickr user lightmatter]

37 Responses to Mexicana Surpasses Alitalia as the Worst Airline Ever

  1. Hello Cranky,

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now, given my passing interest in aviation and flying and all that. However, I have a question for you, and that is, what really is your criterion for selecting “the worst airline ever”? I mean, I am pretty sure there’s some humorous take to this (but who knows, I am really bad at sarcasm), and yes, I’ve read your previous Alitalia posts. You sound like you have a vendetta against AZ, because I think there are other worse airlines out there than AZ. I mean, PR for example is having a bad time back home with their pilot walk-outs and yet I don’t see any of your two cents about them. Then there’s the airlines that came out of the Soviet collapse, and looking at reviews online, they sound like they’re worse than AZ. So, not to sound like I am a troll or anything, but for curiosity’s sake, so what exactly are your criteria to pick AZ as the worst ever?

    • CF says:

      There is hardly any scientific criteria for this. But I can tell you that when it came to Alitalia, it was the ability to lose massive amounts of money, anger passengers, and fly only when it felt like it. Yet the airline continued to survive thanks to Italian generosity. Onboard product was never a part of it at all.

      I have no vendetta against Alitalia. Never flown them and never have actually even helped anyone who has flown them. As for Philippine, well, yeah, every airline has had labor problems at one point or another, but they hardly seem to be the worst around. This takes some special above and beyond.

  2. Oliver says:

    How would that regulation work in practice?

    A situation like this is where it pays to have a lot of FF miles (or cash, of course) in the bank. As a UA 1K I’d make a “just in case” award booking to cover the increasingly likely event of a cancellation. And if the original flight by some miracle was operated as planned, I’d redeposit the awards. Was quite comforting when that aieaioueaieaioueahyuo volcano in Iceland was causing trouble.

  3. Dan says:

    Hey Cranky,

    I’m interested on your comment about regulation. Exactly what rule would you implement? Why would you support regulation? In the past, you’ve mentioned, in general, that things should be worked out in the free market. Aren’t they? People knowingly bought non-refundable fares, and given that refundable fares were probably available, they should take their lumps. No?

    I do agree that it sucks that an airline can hold your travel plans hostage to the point where you may be stuck (that is, not actually rebooking you until shortly before your flight, even though a potential problem has been identified many weeks in advance.)

    How would you extend it to a possible strike situation? The number of strikes that are threatened but not implemented are quite high. So would an airline be obligated to rebook passengers any time a contract be comes amendable, pilots voted for a strike, or what? Lots of times the TA’s aren’t made until the last minute, keeping everybody in limbo.

    What about bankruptcy? Airlines live in it for years with little to no impact on passengers.

    In the Mexicana case, the company would have likely just kept its mouth shut on future plans, and the customers would still be screwed.

  4. Asarkiss says:

    Histórico day here at CF.com. AZ is no more the worst airline ever! I do wish, though, that AZ would ave actually done something to leave that spot, not just be setter that ano her airline. MX is playing a shady game here, trying to screw the unions over… Apparently, ClikMX makes money, I guess that’s a reason they want to transfer their flights there. If I where an MX employee, I’d start sending resumes out….

  5. dan powers says:

    we should have seen this comming…mexicana spending money like a drunk sailor…operating A320’s with 2 different type of engines…operating a330 side by side to 767-300…operating F100 and A318 = 2 planes with some of the highest costs….CRJ’s proven to be inefficient etc etc….they should look at copa…only 2 types of acft….

  6. Asarkiss says:

    My comment above is baaaad. I wrote, accidentally, in my ipads Spanish keyboard. I got historic in Spanish. The following sentence is also terrible. My apologies, I’m very tired….

  7. felipe says:

    Hi all!
    I don’t think Mexican should be name the worst airline for the situation it is now, I deal with travel clients every day and when you look every single case you can find many problems, complications and nightmares.
    Airlines who are member of IATA have a contract with you when you paid for the ticket and they have the obligation to put you on the destinations you paid or to give you all the alternatives in case they can not.
    I think the purpose of a good airline is to make business and do the best they can, our mind is fragile and we easily forgot recently similar situations.
    Also I will like to mention travelers (most of them) get so hysterical when they have to travel and what they need is just to go with the flow.

  8. No mention of the Advent International deal which purchased 95% of MX under the consortium name of Tendora K.

    I thought I saw last week where they started selling tickets again? That may not be right, but my brain cells could be convinced either way this monday morning…..LOL

    • CF says:

      I did mention it briefly with a link in the last paragraph, but no deal has been announced yet. The airline isn’t talking, so there’s nothing to know yet. And no, Mexicana has not started selling tickets again yet.

  9. Rich says:

    I’m curious as to whether travel insurance would help in this case? Or would they say the same stuff (your flight hasn’t been canceled yet)?

    • CF says:

      There are all different types of travel insurance out there, but for the most part, no, this wouldn’t be covered because flights haven’t been canceled yet.

  10. Frank V says:

    >>Alitalia is no longer the worst airline ever.

    Can anyone help me get back to my home planet?

  11. David says:

    Much of the EU has a regulation that if an airline cancels your flight in non-exceptional conditions less than 28 days in advance, they have to pay hefty compensation in addition to refunding your ticket. Of course, what defines ‘exceptional’ is debatable, but generally if an airline wants to cancel a flight because the advance booked load factor is poor (yes, all airlines do it, they just don’t admit to it), then they give passengers enough time to do something about it.

    Perhaps a similiar rule would work ? Govt tells airline “you can cancel a flight whenever you deem necessary, but you have to either give passengers advance notice or pay a penalty”

    Having said all that, when an airline goes into bankruptcy, the normal rules of economics go out the window, and a very different set of logic applies. In the case of Mexicana, the situation seems to change way too fast right now for any model of regulation to be viable.

    • CF says:

      Of course, what defines ‘exceptional’ is debatable, but generally if an airline wants to cancel a flight because the advance booked load factor is poor (yes, all airlines do it, they just don’t admit to it)

      This is one of the biggest myths out there and it’s simply not true. There are far too many other variables involved when you cancel a flight. Airlines don’t just look for flights with low loads and cancel them. (I mean, not on a one-off but rather if a flight is consistently terrible, they cancel it permanently.)

      But I don’t think that regulation really helps. Let’s look at the Mexicana situation. A traveler wants to go to Madrid but the flight isn’t canceled until 7 days prior. By that time, there might not be any seats, and if there are, they won’t be cheap. So now you have money but you might not even be able to find a seat anyway.

      • JamesK says:

        THANK YOU, CF. Passengers are still convinced that airlines do this, no matter how much one explains that it is in fact expensive for an airline to cancel a flight, as the crew still gets paid and the aircraft has to park somewhere, not to mention the lost revenue and the passengers at point B waiting for the flight back to point A. What can happen is that the airplane for the point A to point C flight has a mechanical problem, and the only other option for the point C passengers is a flight three days from now, while point B has another flight scheduled for an hour from now with plenty of seats. In that case, take the cancellation that will inconvenience fewer passengers in the long run.

  12. James says:

    If I were in this situation I would have a new ticket in hand on another carrier. You certainly CAN dispute your Mexicana ticket, but are all CC companies in agreement and follow the same rule that unless the airline is BK or cancels the flight that you’re still obligated to it?

    I would think that all the articles in this tactic, including this post, would be proof enough that the airline has a “high probability” of not following through, which would make a chargeback a fair and logical solution.

  13. Jim M says:

    I’ll go with worst airline in the world right now also. Myself and about 15 friends have various Mexicana reservations from airports in the Northern California area for a wedding in Mazatlan. But here is what ticks me off the most:

    Mexicana has a list of cancelled flights on their webpage. Good for them, I guess. But they forgot about Sacramento. They dropped their occasional service to Cabo 1st and then completly dropped their service to Guadalajara. So at the end of the day Sacramento just doesn’t exist. I even Twittered them on this.

    I’m actually kinda pissed they found a buyer this weekend. Now my cash remains in limbo, and I am left scratching my head.

    • CF says:

      Unfortunately, there’s no a ton that can be done. We’ve been helping some people via Cranky Concierge the best we can, but it’s really a crapshoot at this point.

      • Jim M says:

        A $640 crapshoot if you include my wife’s ticket. Not that I work for a living or anything. . . .

        Great blog by the way. . .

  14. For those of us who live in Mexico City, all the positive hype about Mexicana CLICK being the new guaranteed breadwinner for MEXICANA es BS. For at least 5 years, one finds a fare on the internet, on the CLICK webpage…but you can literally never buy it. When you call to reserver or use the internet to reserve, you will get the message that at that fare, all is sold out.

    A friend who worked as one of the CLICK reservation agents told me he spent most of his day explaining to callers that the “low” fare was not available (sometimes 1 ticket, sometimes none). The customers were of course offered a more expensive ticket, which if they wanted to fly, they had to pay. Often MUCH more expensive.

    In spite of their website’s proclaiming that CLICK is “the only low fare airline operating out of Mexico City,” it is very difficult to actually fly it. I cannot foresee this changing…but I can foresee the continued bait and switch of fares, and hence ultimately more income for the parent company.

    Their supposed site (http://www.clickmx.com) currently takes you to http://www.mexicana.com/cs/Satellite?pagename=MexicanaG5_US_EN/Page/HomePageComposition_US_EN. The confusion between the two is total and continuing.

    A mess that doesn’t bode well for future success.

  15. Elusive says:

    I have a flight from CUN to IAD and they haven’t cancelled it yet but refuse to give me a refund. The other crappy thing is that I bought their travel insurance and of course insolvency is NOT one of the covered items. Unbelievable!

    • CF says:

      It’s canceled now. The airline is shutting down as of tomorrow at noon. Ugh.

      • The news is saying they have shut down today. I really hate seeing decades old airlines vanish. Some are like the original airlines, it’s a shame when it happens.

      • Elusive says:

        When I called a few weeks ago and asked what would happen if they cancelled my flight, I was told Mexicana would offer the option of a refund or to rebook me another airline. I wonder if the latter option is still open?

        • CF says:

          You should absolutely call them. One of our concierge clients was able to get booked on another airline. Have some patience though, phone lines are jammed.

  16. Elusive says:

    I called them and they said they will NOT protect me on another airline until 48 hours before my flight which was supposed to be on Sept 8 2010. 48 hours before and I will be in Mexico already. When I had called them weeks ago when they first filed for bankruptcy I was told they wouldn’t give me a refund unless the flight was cancelled. When I complained that if I waited until they cancelled the flight, airfare would be really high by then. Mexicana told me not to worry, they would rebook me. That was apparently a LIE.

    When I spoke with a supervisor he said to call back on Monday as the airline might be flying again even though the website says the airline is shut down indefinitely. Probably another lie.

  17. vacationRuined says:

    Just got a notice that my flight, in two days, has been canceled. And Mexicana call center is closed this weekend. What airline cancels ALL FLIGHTS on a Saturday, then doesn’t allow access to a customer service rep til a Monday. Rhetorical question, I know. I read the title of this article.

  18. Stranded In Tampico says:

    I flew out to Tampico after they canceled and rescheduled my flight on Thursday and said they guaranteed that my flight was fine. Now I am here in Tampico until Tuesday because that is when my return flight was scheduled to return to San Francisco. I called this morning and I did get through although the call center say they are closed. I was on hold for over an hour an a half but finally got through. The first gentleman told me there was nothing he could do because Aeromexico WILL NOT ACCEPT Mexicana customers and was told I was basically screwed and stranded when I reiterated this to him he said yes I am sorry but you should purchase another ticket then apply for a refund. I told him I had no money and he said that was not his problem. I asked to be transfered to another representative and this person told me my flight had yet not been cancelled because the lack of cooperation from AeroMexico has left them no option to get passengers on other flights since few airline fly out of Tampico. I was then told that I would need to call Monday Morning at 7:00am to see if indeed my flight is canceled. If that was the case he said I would be put on a flight from Tampico to Washington, Washington to Dallas, Dallas to San Francisco so I could get home. Be very persistent and don not take no for an answer. I will update ad I get more info

    • Are they INSANE? You have to call Monday morning to see your flight is indeed canceled??? Every news outlet is reporting that Mexicana has suspended service indefinitely. Their own web site confirms this, “Financial deterioration and lack of agreements force Grupo Mexicana to stop flying.” STOP FLYING = FLIGHTS CANCELED. My planned vacation may be ruined but I think being stranded in Tampico with the airline carrier NOT on your side, is much worse. Best of luck to you getting home.

    • CF says:

      Some airlines may do more than others. For example, I received a release saying that Volaris is trying to work with customers. I haven’t actually read all the details yet because they don’t fly to where any clients are that we’re trying to help, but if they fly to your city, you can try them.

  19. ^^^^^and the airline I would be on is either United or American

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  21. rita says:

    My definition of blatant disregard for the consumer and maddening:
    Read what happened and is still happening to me compliments of Alitalia:
    Alitalia is the worst airline.
    They lost all of my luggage over a year ago and I am still fighting with them over the money they owe me for what I spent to re-purchase my luggage, clothing, boots, shoes, toiletries, makeup, etc. They are a disgraceful bunch of mobsters in my opinion. There is NO customer “service” as they sarcastically smirk when you ask them anything.
    http://wp.me/p1l3In-4 Believe it or not…..There is so much more to the story than is mentioned on that link….like after they lost everything and I was in the Milan airport with nothing except a small tote bag, and the clothes on my back…naturally I was upset…they refused to talk to me until “I calmed down.” And, after I had to repurchase everything with my money- including luggage- since my trip was multiple cities across France and Italy- when they lost my luggage, they lost all of my clothing, my boots, my shoes, my makeup, my toiletries and my luggage and my daughter’s luggage. We could not TRAVEL until and unless I purchased everything all over again. They assured me that I would be reimbursed. But all of that is included in the link….however, the “icing on the cake” was when we were in the Florence airport waiting for our connecting flight to return home, and the Alitalia agent claimed that our luggage was now over the weight limit and she wanted me to pay for the extra baggage! So, imagine this now…..THEY LOST my luggage for the ENTIRE vacation. I only received it back in time to put it on the return flight so I had to rebuy everything, (I never even opened it in Italy!) so Yes, I imagine that I had some extra weight….. so now she was “charging” me for extra weight…..THIS was after they refused to let me even “speak” in Florence……you can imagine how upset I got. I refused to pay and tried to explain why…..But, she didn’t care….she insisted. So, I threw out the heaviest toiletries, boots, and clothes in the airport until I got down to the “acceptable” weight and now over ONE YEAR later, they are refusing to pay me what they owe me and they won’t even pay me what they OFFERED to pay me (AND I THREW OUT MOST OF THOSE CLOTHES AND BOOTS IN THE AIRPORT!)– or even acknowledge that they made a typo in the letter. Actually “Alitalia sucks” is too kind. They are criminals, hoodlums, and I pray for the day that the company goes out of business.

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