ERA 2015: Airline of the Year Gold Award for ASL Airlines Ireland

ASL Airlines Ireland has been named the winner of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) Airline of the Year Gold Award 2015, with the Silver Award going to Aurigny Air Services and the Bronze Award to Air Nostrum.

The judging panel praised ASL Airlines Ireland, formerly known as Air Contractors, for its strategic advance into passenger ACMI flying, in particular its ability to meet the exacting standards of Ryanair with two Boeing 737s and the implementation of three Boeing 757 operations on behalf of Aer Lingus on time and on budget.

“The ERA Gold Award is really the culmination of a great year for us as this is our second major award having been named ‘Irish Aircraft Operator of the Year’ at the Irish Aviation Authority Awards ceremony in May,” noted Colin Grant, chief executive, ASL Airlines. “During the year we successfully expanded and diversified our operations while maintaining our superior standards of reliability and quality. We also rebranded to ASL Airlines Ireland from Air Contractors and we introduced passenger flying under our own brand and for major airline customers including Aer Lingus and Ryanair.”

Andrew Kelly, ASL Airlines Ireland’s director of corporate affairs (pictured below) added, “ASL Airlines itself is a four airline group in Europe. We were previously Air Contractors, Europe Airpost, Farnair Switzerland and Farnair Hungary. We did the re-brand to have one single brand representing all that we do across Europe. It also helps us to get cost and operational efficiencies, streamlining operations across all four airlines, for example as a CAMO.

 src=“The aircraft which are not branded for customers will just have ASL Airlines on them rather than any of the country identities and we’ll continue to operate off four AOCs. We’ll put as much as we can into the ‘central pot’ though,” Kelly explained.

“Much of our work is cargo for which we operate a fleet of ATRs out of Paris and Köln. We also have some A300-600s,” he continued.

The Silver Award went to Aurigny Air Services in recognition of the airline’s key role and engagement in island life and its commitment to improving Guernsey’s connectivity with the development of a new route to London City Airport and the introduction of Aurigny’s first jet in its 47-year history.

Aurigny’s CEO, Mark Darby (pictured below), said: “I’m delighted, on behalf of everyone at Aurigny, to have won this award. It is proof of our commitment to providing frequent, fair-priced and quality air transport links for the people of the Channel Islands and visitors from the UK and further afield. It’s a great honour for our efforts to be recognised by an organisation as prestigious as the ERA.”  src=

Darby explained that the airline has one Embraer 195, three ATR 72-500s, one ATR 42-500, two pre-owned Dornier 228NGs with one new aircraft of that type arriving in December. “We expect to be able to buy another new 228NG next year after which we are likely to drop one of the used ones.”

“We’re going through a recapitalisation,” Darby reported. This will address the airline’s accumulated losses dating back to 2003 and which amount to £19.9m. In addition, the States of Guernsey’s Treasury and Resources Department is recommending that Aurigny is capitalised for its forecast losses totalling £5.3m for the years 2015-2017.

“The recapitalisation is a legacy of previous States’ decisions made as long ago as 2005 about the debt funding model for the airline, which has seen it borrowing to fund its operating and capital expenditure costs,” stated the Department. “Recapitalisation will enable the company to repay some existing loans and overdraft facilities used to fund operating expenses. The airline will benefit from no longer having to service interest payments on these debts. As well as repaying existing debts, the recapitalisation will set aside funds for predicted future losses to the end of 2017. It is not an extra cash boost for Aurigny.”

The Department’s statement continued: “The recapitalisation will also restore Aurigny’s balance sheet to a neutral position, enabling it to repatriate the Group’s company registrations from Jersey to Guernsey. In doing so, there is likely to be a reorganisation of the company registrations within the Group from three to one, thereby reducing the associated administrative overheads involved with the existing registrations and annual accounts/reports.”

Discussing operations, Aurigny’s commercial director, Malcolm Coupar, pointed out that the London City route was a response to the Guernsey financial community. “There is also a good range of connections there which has been helpful in development of the route. Around 15% of our passengers are currently connecting and we expect that number to double in the next three years,” he remarked. “By end of this year we should have 350,000 passengers going into the London market {through Gatwick, City and Stansted].”

The ability of Bronze Award winner Air Nostrum to fully implement its recovery plan, attract €25 million of new capital, win PSO contracts and return the company to profitability was commended by the judging panel.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Berlin, Germany

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