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By Sharay Angulo
MEXICO CITY, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Mexican budget airline Interjet plans to resume flights in 2022 with 10 leased Airbus SE airplanes after shutting down a year ago when its already-suffering finances were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, company representatives said on Friday.
The pandemic's toll on the global tourism industry had exacerbated operational and debt problems at Interjet, putting the company on the brink of bankruptcy.
"The plan is to restart operations with 10 Airbus 320 (planes)," Luis Bertrand, the newly appointed chief executive, said in an interview, adding that the company "is alive, is viable, and we're going to get it ahead."
Interjet must first wrap up negotiations with creditors through a judicial process that has been slowed by a strike by the airline's union, comprising 5,000 employees, that began in January.
Ivan Romo, managing partner at SOELI Consulting, the firm managing Interjet's restructuring, said the company is working with creditors to reach agreements that can be formalized once the legal process begins.
Romo said the goal is to "start again in the coming year," aiming for forgiveness between 90% and 99% per creditor.
Interjet is set to lease the Airbus planes, with six slated to depart from Mexico City, two from Toluca and two from the partially built airport at Santa Lucia, just outside Mexico City.
Bertrand, who previously ran the Toluca International Airport near Mexico City, said work is moving ahead to restart operations while negotiations are underway on the financial, legal and labor side. Part of that includes a plan to give 22 Sukhoi aircraft back to Sukhoi in exchange for cancelling 6.3 billion pesos ($296.28 million) in debt, Bertrand said.
"We have already signed the respective agreements so that they can start rehabilitating these aircraft again," Bertrand said.
($1 = 21.2640 Mexican pesos)
(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Will Dunham)