Saturday, July 22, 2017

Swiss monitoring Adria - Darwin tie-up

Swiss International Air Lines has said it is monitoring Adria Airways' takeover of Darwin Airline "with great interest". In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, a Swiss spokesperson added that while the carrier does not comment on other market player's business, "Swiss works closely together with Adria Airways as our current wet-lease partner". Besides both airlines being members of Star Alliance and codesharing on each others' flights, the Slovenian carrier is currently wet-leasing a Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft to its Swiss counterpart. Following Etihad's purchase of a 33.3% stake in Darwin Airline in 2014, Swiss cancelled an agreement to accommodate Darwin passengers in the event of flight disruptions, terminated the wet-lease arrangement a Darwin aircraft and targeted Darwin's route network. As a result, the regional carrier lodged a formal complaint with the country's competition commission over alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

Adria Airways has moved quickly following its purchase of a 99.1% stake in Darwin, with the remaining 0.9% to be acquired "shortly". A Darwin Saab 2000 aircraft, which has the capacity to seat fifty passengers, has already been deployed to Ljubljana from which it has commenced operations on behalf of Adria to destinations such as Sarajevo, Vienna and Warsaw. The aircraft will operate from the Slovenian capital until Monday. Darwin, which is shortly to be rebranded into Adria Airways Switzerland, has more than half of its ten-strong fleet operating on behalf of Alitalia. Currently, all of its four ATR 72 aircraft and two out of its six Saab 2000s are flying regional routes for Alitalia. The fate of the wet-lease arrangement under Darwin's new management is unknown.

Earlier this week, Adria Airways' CEO, Arno Schuster, said, “Darwin is an excellent airline with experienced management and staff. Extending our network and, consequently, optimising cost structures will create a win-win situation for both carriers. Our experienced commercial department will market Darwin’s flights under the brand name Adria Airways Switzerland”. The Swiss regional airline has 250 employees. Darwin made a small profit last year and has forecast a positive result for 2017. Adria's owner, 4K Invest, is a private equity firm based in Munich which specialises in the acquisition of medium and large-sized companies with poor operating performance. It then systematically restructures them. Adria was its first investment in the aviation industry.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Air Serbia to lease out two jets

Air Serbia plans to lease out two of its Airbus A319 aircraft over the 2017/18 winter season, as the airline continues to implement its new business strategy. The two jets, registered YU-API and YU-APD, have been listed on the leasing market, and will be available to potential customers between October 17, 2017 and April 2018. One of the aircraft (YU-APD) is being offered as part of an operational lease and/or an ACMI (where Air Serbia would provide the aircraft, crews, maintenance, and insurance to the leasee), while the other (YU-API) has been put on the market solely for an ACMI lease. Both leasing types indicate short-term arrangements. Currently, Lufthansa and Air Serbia's part-owner Etihad are holding talks over the possible lease of aircraft from the Emirati carrier's European airline investments to Eurowings.

Since relaunching as Air Serbia, the airline has, on several occasions, provided aircraft on a wet-lease basis to various carriers, including Montenegro Airlines, Air Berlin, Etihad Airways and Etihad Regional. However, this development marks the first time the airline has made plans to remove more than one jet from its fleet for an entire season. Air Serbia previously said it experiences strong seasonality in its operations, similar to other national carriers in the former Yugoslavia, and records less demand during the winter months. Furthermore, it noted that its focus in the coming period will be on internal consolidation and strengthening of its business, as it deals with growing costs and strong competition from low cost carriers. 

Air Serbia is due to take delivery of its first of ten Airbus A320neo aircraft in the second half of next year. However, the arrival of the jets has been put into question as a result of the airline's new business model, which places a greater emphasis on doing more with what the carrier currently has available at its disposal. Earlier this year, the company's CEO, Dane Kondić, said the A320neos were "still on the table", without giving further details. Air Serbia has a fleet of 21 operational aircraft, including eight A319s, two A320s, one A330-200, six ATR 72s and four Boeing 737-300s, which are operated by the airline's dedicated charter brand.

Hainan Airlines begins Belgrade sales


Hainan Airlines has been granted a permit to commence a two weekly service between Beijing and Belgrade via Prague from September 15, the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate confirmed to EX-YU Aviation News. The Chinese carrier also requested and received fifth freedom rights between Prague and Belgrade, allowing it to sell tickets on this sector as well. The carrier has put tickets for the new service on sale, with return economy class fares starting from 550 euros. Flights are scheduled to operate with the 292-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft, featuring 32 seats in business class and the remaining 260 in economy. As previously reported, Hainan Airlines will operate the service under the following schedule.

Adria's Darwin takeover "positive news"


Adria Airways' takeover of the Swiss-based Darwin Airline (operating under the Etihad Regional brand) has been described as "positive news". The Chairman of the Board of Lugano Airport, Emilio Bianchi, said, "Clearly we are losing one partner (Etihad), but it's good that there is a company that will replace them. Adria Airways is a very serious company and has a very good reputation". He added, "We need to understand their strategy. We will have the opportunity to meet the new heads of the airline in due course, but this seems to us as positive news. It proves that there is still some interest in regional airlines, which are very important for an airport like ours". Adria Airways plans to rebrand Darwin from Etihad Regional into Adria Airways Switzerland. It has revealed no further plans for its new subsidiary.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Adria Airways buys Etihad Regional

Adria Airways has purchased Etihad Airways' upscale Swiss arm Etihad Regional through its new subsidiary Adria Airways Switzerland. Etihad Regional was relaunched in early 2014 to attract Europe's business travellers. Under the terms of the deal, the airline will continue to operate under its current legal name Darwin Airline SA with its own air operator’s certificate (AOC), but will change its marketing brand from Etihad Regional to Adria Airways Switzerland. "The decision to sell this minority stake (33.1%) in Darwin is the result of our current strategic review of our investments and the choice to focus on our other partners", Kevin Knight, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer at the Etihad Aviation Group, said. Other shareholders have also sold their stake in the business to Adria, which now has 99.1% ownership in the airline. The remaining 0.9% will be acquired shortly. The value of the transaction has not been disclosed, but is being financed by Adria's owners 4K Invest. The parties involved have agreed to maintain confidentiality.

In a statement, Adria Airways' CEO, Arno Schuster, said, "Darwin is an excellent airline with experienced management and staff. Extending our network and, consequently, optimizing cost structures will create a win-win situation for both carriers. Our experienced commercial department will market Darwin’s flights under the brand name Adria Airways Switzerland". Adria's Chief Financial Officer, Heinrich Ollendiek, will become the new CEO of Adria Airways Switzerland. The airline will retain its bases in Lugano and Geneva. Adria Airways will take over some of Darwin’s administrative and operational tasks and will market the Swiss airline’s services. The President of Darwin Airline's Board of Directors, Emilio Martinenghi, said, "Adria Airways, with its extensive expertise, its strong route network, especially in the Southeast European market, will be very beneficial not only to the future of Darwin but also to the Ticino region we serve, which needs good connections with the rest of Switzerland and throughout Europe". He added, "Darwin Airline is well capitalised and solvent, thus able to honour all of its commitments to creditors".

Darwin Airline was founded in 2003 with the prime aim of connecting the southern part of Switzerland, the Ticino, and its economy with the country’s main Zurich and Geneva financial centers and airline hubs. Following the acquisition of 33.3% of its shares by Etihad Airways, Darwin joined the Etihad Group of airlines in 2014 and adopted the Etihad Regional marketing name. It uses a fleet of six fifty-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft, as well as four ATR 72s, which are currently being operated on behalf of Alitalia. The airline runs flights across Europe, offering passengers direct connections to dozens of major cities. It also taps into a half-dozen points served by Etihad and its codeshare partners Air Berlin and Air Serbia. Etihad's sale of its stake in Etihad Regional represents its first divestment since launching a company-wide strategic review last year of its shareholdings in other carriers. When launching Etihad Regional in January 2014, the former Etihad CEO, James Hogan, described the deal as "a step-change" for the business.

4K Invest, a turnaround fund from Munich, signed a contract for the purchase of a 91.58% stake in Adria Airways at a price of 100.000 euros early last year. It later bought the remaining stake in the Slovenian carrier in order to secure 100% ownership. The transaction marked its first investment in the aviation sector. Since its purchase of Adria, 4K has brought in several new aircraft, boosted the airline's flight network, closed the carrier's base in Poland, ended a commercial cooperation agreement with Estonia's Nordica and has attempted to reduce the company's losses. However, it is yet to publish Adria's 2016 financial report. Late last year, Adria named Captain Tiziano Ponseggi, the former Director of Operations at Etihad Regional, as its new Chief Commercial Officer.