Mexico’s President Dumps Private 787, Will Fly Commercial Instead

Filed Under: Misc.

In 2016 Mexico’s government took control of a Boeing 787, which flew around former President Enrique Pena Nieto. The purchase of the plane had actually been arranged under the previous president, Felipe Calderón, in 2012. The plane was to be paid for over 15 years. For what it’s worth, the 787 was replacing a 757 that was previously used for the president.

Well, Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is today fulfilling a promise he made during his campaign, and is selling the government’s 787.

The plane will today be flown to California, where it will be maintained until they find a buyer for it.

What’s the reason for this? The current Mexican president thought the plane was too lavish and unnecessary, arguing that it’s even nicer than the current Air Force One in the US (which is an old 747-200). As he said, “you can not have a rich government with poor people.”

The plane reportedly cost around $220 million. Interestingly Mexico’s former president had argued that the price tag was much lower than the $580 million initially allocated to the project. He also noted that reselling the plane to an airline would require taking a loss of nearly $130 million, and that wasn’t worth it.

As part of his promise to cut costs, the new president is also planning on selling over 60 government planes and 70 government helicopters. Going forward, the president’s plan is to travel on commercial flights.

It will be interesting to see who ends up buying this business jet configured 787. Obviously there’s a very small market for that, and presumably even if they do find a buyer, they’ll do so at a great loss, due to how a 787 depreciates after a few years. I feel like someone who can afford to buy a private 787 also wants it customized exactly how they want it, and reconfiguring a plane like that isn’t cheap.

Ultimately it seems like this is more about fulfilling a campaign promise and about setting a good example than anything else, and I respect that.

  1. Let’s see how long he lasts. Even Warren Buffett was a convert to flying private and that man is a scrooge

  2. Canada has an aging fleet of VIP A310’s bought second-hand in the early 1990’s. A 787 would be about right for a country like Canada. Australia and Spain – roughly comparable sized economies as Canada – are in the process of getting A330’s for their VIP fleet I believe.

  3. Exactly as Genocide Communist Chavez did in my country in the beginning, to manipulate the Sheep. Then shortly after showed his true colors and bought a shiny new airplane. Poor Mexico, they elected another puppet of the Castro regime. Just wait and see.

  4. He isn’t going to sell it, it is just a political stunt, the same as the New Mexico City airport ( he supposedly going to stop it the day he was sworn in and surprise, yesterday he said it is going to continue). So expect it to return

  5. Lucky should grab it. Think of the endless unique reviews. Oh, and the miles he would get for the purchase if he used all his credit cards. Could definitly write it off as a business expense.

  6. I know here a lot of China haters. But I think China has the best model for this. China doesn’t have a presidential plane, instead they will borrow one of the commercial plane from Air China. I assume the president couple will be in first class and ministers will be in biz and the rest of staff sitting in the back.
    Once state visit is done, the plane will be back to regular commercial use.

    If the mexico president really want to use commercial plane, how does he arrange the security details? It will be very impractical.

  7. And in six years, his successor will have to spend taxpayer money on a new plane, starting off his or her term with a minor scandal.

  8. Big security issue. Flying commercial gives some advance notice of where he will be and in close proximity to the public. With the cartels in Mexico, he needs to be careful. It is good he is cutting back, no need for the 787, but keeping the 757 or another narrowbody would be best. I am sure it needs to carry others with him.

  9. @lu: I wouldn’t describe using a commercial aircraft temporarily as a “China model”. Many countries do this.

  10. Lu – Is that really a good plan? If the airline is going to keep a spare plane lying around for the government to take whenever they want, the government might as well have a plane. If they are taking it from the aircraft pool, then presumably some flights are going to have to be cancelled at short notice?

  11. @Justin , good to know that. Could you name one? Not trying to doubt you but I simply don’t know any major country do that.

    @callum, any mayor airlines would have enough redundancy to cover that. You really think the plane and flight are so tightly allocated? What if there is a mechanical breakdown? or even scheduled maintenance delay?

  12. @BBK
    In this day and age Venezuela’s A319 isn’t exactly the height of extravagance compared to some tin pot dictatorships in Asia or Africa.

  13. @lu: That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
    Aside from the fact that one of the four designated Air China 747-400s would always be specially retrofitted for government missions, the Chinese govt. is currently looking at dedicating one 747-8I as a presidential transport permanently.
    If there’s a need for extra equipment and lots of staff seats, it no longer makes sense to fly “commercial”, since the expense almost matches the operation of a private plane.

  14. @lu: @Nate Nate mentioned Israel and Ireland. India also uses an Air India jet for their VIP travel. The wikipedia page that @Nate Nate highlighted is pretty comprehensive.

  15. Also worth noting that the Dreamliner is one of the “terrible teens,” one of the first 787 off the line and heavier than the normal. Might limit who buys the aircraft since range is smaller. I do believe that Ethiopian picked up a few though

  16. @Jordan: Maybe not the best idea, especially since as said by @Kip, this is one of the 787s with defects

  17. Not sure about this guy. tossing the plane is one thing. Unarmed guards is another thing. Either he has a deal with the cartels, or they will use his naïve vision of the world to their advantage

  18. At a time of skype and web video messaging apps, I see little value in heads of state spending billions of taxpayer money annually on travels. Travels should be minimized and interaction through IT encouraged. Leaders need only meet with each other once a year and even then, little gets accomplished.

    Sure, there are countries which have used commercial carriers for their heads of state (China, India, Israel and many more actually), but even these aircraft are stored exclusively for heads of states and require managing by the respective armed forces. Not to mention that all of these countries are now seeking exclusive presidential or prime ministerial jets themselves (China: 747-8, India 777-300ER). No leader needs to travel across the world to share their proposal. That’s what delegates and ambassadors (high commissioners) accomplish. The leaders can show solidarity over the phone, web conferencing and a countless other ways.

  19. Being a native of the country with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, I wish we could buy a fleet of 747-8s. Unfortunately, our government would rather spend money on things like healthcare and education.

  20. I feel a little outdone as Justin (I presume Trudeau 🙂 ) has suggested that it is time for him to have a “proper airplane” for the Canadian Prime Minister. Nothing cheap – nothing but the best. And at a discount too.

    The Canadian Armed Forces are currently purchasing Old Fighter Jets from Australia so that we can keep up our NATO commitments. And we just replaced our 50 year old Sea King Helicopters with some other countries old junk.

    But we can lavish gifts on all kinds of social causes.

    We should do a “Crowd Funding” so that Pierre Fils (Justin) can have a nice toy to play in.

  21. Why are the 787s depreciating so much faster? I’m famialar with the engine issues from RR, but still… that’s just one manufacturer. I wouldn’t think this alone would cause substantial depreciation.
    I believe you, just wanting to know what all is making the 787 such an awful plane value wise.

  22. The Mexican government should sell/auction the Dreamliner to the drug kingpins. The drug lord who paid the highest price (above the original cost of $220 million) for the aircraft (and kept it flightworthy and registered in Mexico) would be granted personal immunity from prosecution for 20 years. I bet there would be some spirited bidding.

    Nothing says success like your own luxury private airliner and legal immunity. Tony Montana would dig it.

  23. @Scott – this particular aircraft is one of the six initial test platforms. It is heavier, less fuel efficient and does not contain the manufacturing lessons incorporated into the later commercial units. Hence the massive depreciation in value. The Mexican government purchased this aircraft with significant savings.

  24. Is the video a fair interpretation of what the interior was to look like? There are no seats for support staff or accompany journalists. This video kind of looks like a demo for people wanting the ultimate private jet.

  25. I agree with those who question the safety of his traveling commercial and also would highlight the potential disruptions to the airlines and traveling public. Imagine a commercial airline needing to make available space to a U.S. President, Secret Service, aides and the whole entourage in order for him to get around, and often on short notice, compounded by the security arrangements on the ground. The first time a few dozen regular passengers get re-accommodated to make room, you can expect the idea will lose some of its appeal.

  26. The solution is simple. Don’t travel. I believe the internet is a faster means of communication. We really don’t need Trump to go to any more meetings with foreign officials… He’s done enough damage to our country as is. At least on video conferencing, the IT admin can cut him out and claim terrible bandwidth any time he’s about to make a fool out of US. 😉

  27. @Azamaraal: The current A310s for Canada’s Prime Minister and Governor General have been operating for close to 30 years, so a new VIP aircraft would not be Trudeau’s personal plane, but a government aircraft used for decades for a variety of leaders from both major parties. Those planes also carry large numbers of staff and the press corps which travel with the PM on international trips. The current A310s have range limitations requiring refueling stops, and are not luxurious. A private government aircraft is not a luxury but just the cost of doing business for a major developed country. Canada obviously does not need anything excessive, but if we look at our peer countries (ie. Australia and Spain), then I think an A330 or 787 is not nuts.

  28. PM Trudeau needs a larger plane to accommodate his private chefs and an expanded Liberal loving press core. He has to travel even more to get those pretty photo ops. His disasterous trips especially the India blunder, where he brought a convicted killer with him may be forgotten if he travels to friendly countries.

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