LONDON – It has been announced by French airline Aigle Azur that it has entered into bankruptcy this week, with court proceedings being initiated over this.
Up to 1,100+ jobs are to be affected over these revelations.
This, according to FlightGlobal, came following the developments of a temporary administrator being put in charge of the airline as demanded by Frantz Yvelin, the president of the airline.
Things eventually soured and gave the final kick into the coffin when a minority shareholder, Gerard Houa, attempted a full takeover of the airline itself through his company Lu Azur, which owns 20% of the airline.
This will be a big hit for the French-African market as Aigle Azur mainly serves that market.
From Paris Orly, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Mulhouse and Toulouse, it serves destinations such as Algiers, Bejaia, Constantine, Oran, Setif and Tlemcen.
Aigle has also mentioned that services to Sao Paulo will be suspended on the 27th of this month.
That could be the first of international route suspensions, with the likes of Beirut, Kiev, Moscow, Faro, Porto, Funchal and Bamako also potentially being on the chop.
On a more interesting note, this is yet again another failed investment for China’s HNA Group, who owns 48% of the airline.
Other failed investments and poor financials in other sectors across the group has forced a lot of scalebacks and withdrawals from many different markets globally.
A problem for Aigle now will be leasing arrangements, as its seven Airbus A320s, two A330-200s and one Boeing 737-400 are all leased from the likes of GECAS, Avolon, Aircastle and Castlelake.
Where Aigle Came From…
The airline’s life started off in 1946 when it was founded by Sylvain Floirat, and began operations with Junkers JU52s carrying 32 passengers per flight.
Between that year and 1955, the carrier secured specific transport contracts with French authorities for transporting overseas teachers during the school holidays.
Its whole African/Middle-East mantra saw it inaugurate flights to Tunisia and Lebanon, with expansion into the likes of Indochina and Algeria thanks to American supply surpluses.
By 1953, it was operating Douglas DC-3s that were equipped with Turbomeca Palas’.
In 1955, the airline got transferred into the Union Aéromaritime de Transport (UAT), with the Aigle Azur name coming back in the 1970s, being re-established under the name Lucas Aviation based in Pontoise Airport.
Under that name, it operated services between Deauville and London Gatwick, even with the name changing to Lucas Aigle Azur.
Aigle’s History Reflective on Decline?
This is not the first spout of trouble that the airline has had.
In 2001, the airline, renamed as Aigle Azur, was already in decline, holding only two Boeing 737-200 aircraft at the time.
It had to be taken over yet again by the GoFast group, who invested the money the airline needed to update the fleet and begin its focus on chartered services to Algeria.
Once carrier Air Lib went into bankruptcy, it poached the market and began commercial, not chartered, operations into the country, and had continued to rise in that market after the closure of Khalifa Airways.
The new ownership helped the airline blossom, with its operating services to Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakesh, Agadir, Fes, Tangier and Oujda by 2006 thanks to Open Sky Agreements signed.
By 2007, it was servicing 30 destinations across different French cities.
It seemed that Aigle Azur was immune to the financial crisis of 2008, with it receiving up to 11 aircraft by April of that year.
May 2009 saw the airline receive its first Airbus A320 thanks to significant successes at the Paris Air Show enabling further orders, growth and exposure to the brand.
Services to Baghdad, Dakar, Abidjan, Brazzaville, Mali and Moscow were all launched between 2009 and 2012, showing further international growth as well as close to home.
By 2014, it had become the second-largest French airline, beating rivals Air Austral and Corsair. Aigle had around 1,400 people employed at the time.
2015-2016 saw routes to the likes of Dakar and Conakry launch, and even on the domestic front with pressure from the likes of Air France, Air Algerie, EasyJet and TAP Portugal, it still seemed to continue and thrive.
But now, we are at the point where again we could see another airline disappear into the mist, 73 years into its operations.
This will ultimately place more pressure on the likes of Corsair and Air Austral to fight it out in the market for whatever Aigle chooses to sell down the line.
That is the sad thing about this closure and is very reflective of the aviation industry as a whole. Like with Germania, like with BMI Regional, Aigle Azur will be swallowed up and forgotten about in the history books…