One of the biggest questions arising out of FedEx’s acquisition of TNT Express has been answered: Ireland-based ASL Aviation Group signed an agreement to acquire TNT’s airline operations, including both TNT Airways, and Spain-based Pan Air Lineas Aéreas.
The agreement is conditional on the completion of FedEx’s acquisition of TNT, but regulatory authorities in Europe, the US, and Brazil have already announced their approval, so ASL’s takeover of Pan Air and TNT Airways (FedEx cannot own a European airline) is almost certain.
Given the size of TNT’s fleet, there were really only two European carriers with the experience to step in and take over – ASL and West Air – and ASL was in fact poised to take over TNT Airways several years ago until the European Commission torpedoed UPS’ acquisition of TNT.
Financial details of the ASL/TNT agreement “will not be disclosed,” but the companies have released some of the operational details.
- ASL will take over the TNT Airways and Pan Air flights “from the moment the sale is completed.”
- ASL says it expects TNT Airways will “maintain contracts with partner airlines, contractors, and suppliers.” This is important, because, as shown in the upper chart, a significant amount of TNT Express lift is provided by aircraft ACMI-leased from a variety of European carriers.
- Under the agreement, employees of TNT Airways and Pan Air should not see much change. ASL and TNT, in their joint release, said: “employees’ current terms and conditions of employment will be respected.” That is not quite a rock-solid guarantee that nothing will ever change, but should give existing employees some comfort.
- Regarding TNT Airways’ hub in Liege, the release is somewhat vague. As we have discussed in the past, FedEx already has two air hubs in Europe (Paris and Cologne), and adding a third – or, more accurately, keeping the third – seems wasteful. What ASL and TNT say is: “it is intended that the TNT Airways headquarters in Liège will be maintained.” But the joint release also notes that “TNT’s Liège hub (Eurohub) is not part of the airlines sale.” Our guess is that nothing will change immediately, but that eventually operations will be consolidated and one of the three hubs will disappear.
- And finally, regarding ASL’s operations for DHL and UPS, ASL assures Cargo Facts that after the TNT Airways/Pan Air acquisition, ASL will continue its operations for FedEx’s competitors. “The reason we do so is because we are neutral. Every customer is ring fenced and treated completely individually. The aim is to give each one the best service they can get, but never at the expense of one over the other.”
More questions remain, of course, but the basic questions – who will buy TNT Airways/Pan Air, and will there be any immediate drastic changes – have now been answered.