Mexico’s second largest air carrier, Interjet, made its debut in the Puerto Rico market last night, with the arrival of its first chartered flight from Mexico City, carrying 150 passengers.
If all goes well over the next few months, or what airport officials called Interjet’s “warm-up period,” the carrier could begin offering regularly scheduled flights three times a week starting in December.
During a news conference at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport on Tuesday, Ports Authority Executive Director Víctor Suárez said the last time a Mexican airline did business with Puerto Rico was in 2000, the last year when Mexicana de Aviación connected the island with the country.
“Interjet’s arrival opens the door to diversify Puerto Rico’s tourism offer and impact our economic development,” Tourism Company Executive Director Ingrid Rivera-Rocafort said. “This first trip in May will generate 300 hotel room nights, while groups arriving on charters in July and August will generate 1,575 room nights per month, for a total of 1,875 room nights during the months of May, July and August in total,” said Rivera Rocafort, adding that the total economic benefit for Puerto Rico during those three months will be close to $1.2 million.
Interjet Airlines, owned by the Alemán Group, is headquartered in Mexico City, from where it operates scheduled flights to 25 domestic and 8 international destinations. Interjet started operations on December 1, 2005, and has systematically been taking over the routes left unserved when Mexicana de Aviación ceased operations in August 2010, including the San Juan market.
Initially, Interjet will offer chartered flights from Mexico City to promote and generate interest in the route. However, during the news conference, Suárez admitted that negotiations with the airline are “in an advanced stage” to secure regular round-trip service.
Eventually, Interjet’s route could also offer a connection to Cancún, said Agustín Arellano, CEO of Aerostar Airport Holdings, LMM’s private operator.
“This is a clear example of the cooperation that we have established with the government, specifically the Ports Authority and the Tourism Company,” Arellano said. “Attracting more airlines and helping to promote the island as an ideal destination to establish new business relationships, in addition to cultural and tourist attractions is part of the commitment Aerostar made with the government of Puerto Rico and today we begin to see results.”
“It’s not that easy to open up a new flight route, and with this warm-up, Interjet is sparking the interest and demand for a new destination,” he said. “However, the demand has already been established, by the fact that as of today, more than 1,200 packages have been sold for travel in July and August.”
Interjet’s first passengers aboard the Mexico City-San Juan route paid between $690 and $780 for the round-trip, and many are arriving to hop on a cruise or explore the island via organized tours. Government officials said. Eventually, if steady demand is there and the thrice-weekly schedule is locked down, fares could drop, they added.From left: Agustín Arellano, Ingrid Rivera-Rocafort and Víctor Suárez.
Chance to ‘break into’ new markets
These new flights will provide Puerto Rico with the foundation needed to break into new economic markets, with new opportunities for the tourism industry and conventions to be held in the island, Suárez said.
“Puerto Rico’s economic development depends greatly on how we interact with other countries, and the first step, without a doubt, should be connecting with our Latin American neighbors,” said Suárez. “Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America and the third largest economy in the Americas after the United States and Brazil.”
“For many years in Puerto Rico was ignoring Latin America’s emerging economy, and today these countries have become areas of major economic focus,” he said. “For this reason it is important for us that Puerto Rico is accessible to the world and each day bring more tourists from different places.”
A second Interjet flight will land at LMM this Friday, at 10:50 a.m.