Mexico to raffle off huge presidential jet, sort of

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been trying to sell the expensive plane since he took office.

    Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador standing in front of an image of a raffle ticket featuring the presidential plane during his morning news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City [Mexico's Presidential Press Office/Handout via AP]
    Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador standing in front of an image of a raffle ticket featuring the presidential plane during his morning news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City [Mexico's Presidential Press Office/Handout via AP]

    Mexicans will no longer have to worry about where to park a Boeing Dreamliner when their government raffles off the luxurious presidential jet: the country's air force will keep it.

    In fact, nobody will win the actual $130mn Boeing 787 plane in the lottery-style raffle to be held in the coming months.

    Among the many desperate attempts to get rid of the ridiculously expensive plane, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had toyed with the idea of actually awarding the plane to the winner, along with a year's paid maintenance and parking.

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    But Lopez Obrador had worried that would cause problems for the winner, both because of the greed it could unleash among friends, relatives and acquaintances, and because the idea had been lampooned on social media, with people posting pictures of shacks or taco stands with a jet parked outside.

    So the president announced Friday that the raffle will actually be symbolic, awarding total prize money of $100m, which lottery tickets state is "equivalent to the value of the presidential jet". One hundred winners will divide equal shares of the $100 million pot.

    "We did not want to award a prize that would be a problem," Lopez Obrador said. "You know, the memes, 'Where would I park it?'"

    Instead, he said, a cash prize winner would be free to use some of his or her winnings to rent the plane for a few trips, at the current hourly operating price of about $13,500 per hour.

    The government of Mexico hopes to sell six million tickets at about $25 apiece, raising $150m. The remaining money will pay to keep the aeroplane in flight condition while Lopez Obrador tries to sell or rent it. Any net proceeds would go to buy medical equipment.

    Mexico Presidential jet
    The presidential aeroplane at the hangar at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico [File: Mexican Presidential press office/AP Photo] 

    Lopez Obrador flies coach on commercial flights and views the jet, bought for more than $200m by his predecessor, as wasteful.

    The plane failed to find a buyer after a year on sale at a United States airstrip, where it piled up about $1.5mn in maintenance costs.

    The jet is expensive to run, is configured to carry only 80 people, and has a full presidential suite with a bedroom and private bath. Experts say it would be too expensive to reconfigure back into a commercial airliner that normally carries as many as 300 passengers.

    Previously, Lopez Obrador had suggested bartering the plane in exchange for US medical equipment or selling it in shares to a group of businessmen for executive incentive programmes. He has also offered to rent it out by the hour, in hopes of paying off the remainder of the outstanding loans on the plane.

    SOURCE: AP news agency