* Mexicana de Aviacion suspends ticket sales
* Company filed for creditor protection in Mexico, U.S.
* Two sister regional airlines operate normally (Recasts adding details on financial troubles, impact on airports, comments from pilot union, Mexicana, byline)
MEXICO CITY, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Debt-ridden Mexicana de Aviacion, which filed for creditor protection in Mexico and the United States this week, suspended ticket sales on Wednesday as its operating troubles deepened.
Mexicana, member of the Oneworld alliance, is one of the two leading Mexican airlines and flies routes connecting the United States, Canada and Europe with beach resorts such as Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.
Company spokesman Adolfo Crespo told Radio Formula that the airline will continue operating flights that have been already sold.
A spokesman for the pilots’ union told Reuters that they were expected to meet with Mexico’s labor minister on Thursday in a bid to strike a deal with the company’s management. The flight attendants union was not immediately available for comment.
Mexicana, which has a debt of close to 10 billion pesos ($796 million), was battered by Mexico’s deep recession and a flu outbreak last year that scared off tourists.
The 89-year-old airline’s top managers want to cut staff and wages, which they say are bloated and way above those of U.S. peers.
But workers refuse to have their benefits shrink further after giving up multiple benefits in 2006, which helped Mexicana save about $35 million per year.
Mexicana is a unit of Grupo Mexicana, as well as regional airlines Click and Link, which serve domestic routes and will continue selling tickets normally.
According to a report on the company’s website, Mexicana has tweaked 28 flights to and from mostly U.S. destinations and suspended three flights. Three company aircraft -- two in Canada and one in Chicago -- have been grounded since last week at the request of creditors. The company owns nine of the 64 aircraft in its fleet.
IMPACT ON AIRPORTS
OMA OMAB.MX said on Wednesday that Grupo Mexicana has operations at 12 of its 13 airports, which are located in top tourist destinations like Acapulco and Zihuatanejo.
“During the first six months of 2010, Grupo Mexicana generated 16.6 percent of OMA’s total passenger traffic, of which 7.6 percent was accounted for solely by Mexicana de Aviacion,” the company said in a statement.
Rival GAP PAC.N said on Tuesday that Grupo Mexicana operates at 10 of its 12 airports, including Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, and accounted for 18 percent of its domestic traffic and 19 percent of its international passengers between January and June.
Local hotel company Grupo Posadas POSADASL.MX has a 30 percent stake in Mexicana. (Additional reporting by Veronica Gomez Sparrowe; Editing by Richard Chang, Gary Hill)
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