HOUSTON (AP) — Continental Airlines Inc. said Friday it will temporarily cut the number of U.S. departures to Mexico and use smaller planes as fewer passengers book flights there.
Many travelers have become increasingly concerned about going to Mexico because of the recent swine flu outbreak. There are 300 confirmed cases in Mexico and 12 dead, health authorities said Thursday.
"We were already experiencing soft market conditions due to the economy, and now our Mexico routes in particular have extra weakness," Chairman and Chief Executive Larry Kellner said in a statement.
Continental will cut capacity to Mexico by 50 percent starting Monday, with about 40 percent fewer departures. The reductions are about 2 percent of Continental's available seat miles for May.
The Houston-based carrier also extended its waiver policy, allowing customers with trips booked for Mexico to change their itineraries without penalty by the end of the month.
The airline said it will still run return flights to the U.S. from Mexico, but that schedules and routes might change.
Continental ran an average of 450 flights a week to 29 destinations in Mexico before the announcement.
Continental and Fort Worth-based AMR Corp.'s American Airlines had the most scheduled U.S. flights to Mexico on Wednesday. The two airlines, along with US Airways Group Inc., are the biggest U.S. carriers to Mexico.
A check by The Associated Press on Wednesday showed airlines were flying some nearly empty planes from the U.S. to Mexico, a sign that swine flu worries may be keeping travelers home.
Continental said it will continue to monitor demand levels and adjust its capacity and costs as necessary.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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