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Mexico flights coming

Destinations are Hermosillo and Mexico City

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The "international" in Salt Lake City International Airport will take on new meaning Dec. 15, when Mexican airline AeroMexico is expected to begin direct, nonstop flights to Mexico City and Hermosillo, the Deseret News has learned.

The two direct flights will then have connecting service to a host of popular Mexican vacation spots, including Cancun, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

The flights would mark the first regularly scheduled service by a foreign airline to operate at Salt Lake International.

The deal has been in the works for months, headed by Salt Lake-based Morris Murdock Travel agency with the backing of Delta Air Lines, Mayor Rocky Anderson, the Utah International Business Development Office and the Salt Lake Airport Authority.

AeroMexico would not comment on the deal, but a press conference to announce the new service is expected to be called next week.

Added to the daily flights from Salt Lake City to Edmonton and Vancouver, Canada, the additional service to Mexico will open up all of North America to Salt Lake airport travelers.

Morris Murdock president and chief executive officer Mark Slack, who was meeting with AeroMexico officials this week, said he is confident the talks with AeroMexico will be successful and expects to issue a press release next week.

Dan Mabey, executive director of the international business office, said the service will greatly aid Utah's export efforts.

"Mexico has traditionally been one of our top trading partners," he said. "After their (currency) devaluation a few years ago, they have struggled to climb back up to their former levels of exporting goods and services from Utah to Mexico. This will really help that effort."

Under the agreement, AeroMexico will fly the new routes in a code-sharing arrangement with Delta Air Lines, which means that AeroMexico passengers will be able to buy their tickets from Delta, check in at Delta counters and receive Delta frequent flier miles for the trips — the latter an important perk because Delta is by far the largest carrier at Salt Lake International.

The agreement calls for AeroMexico to fly on Saturdays and Sundays to Mexico City, from where connections can be made to any Mexican city other than Cancun. On Mondays and Fridays, flights will be available to Hermosillo, with connections to Mazatlan and San Carlos. Daily service to Puerto Vallarta via Los Angeles also will be available.

AeroMexico will make the flights using 180-seat MD-88 and 120-seat MD-80 aircraft, which are similar to Boeing 737 planes.

Slack said his team has been negotiating with AeroMexico for six months about flying out of Salt Lake City, a relationship that grew out of charter flights Morris Murdock had been taking to Mexico for vacationing Utahns.

"We told them that if they would commit to coming to Utah, we would not operate our charters and we would support them," Slack said.

By support, he meant that the agency would not only sell seats on the scheduled service but would commit to buying a "significant block" of seats on the flights, which it would then sell to its own customers as well as other travel agencies.

Morris Murdock and Cruise and Travel Masters together own a subsidiary company called Xplore Vacations, through which they will wholesale the air travel along with hotel packages in various Mexican cities.

"Instead of just a few destinations, we'll now be selling all of Mexico at low prices," Slack said.

E-mail: max@desnews.com