EU law will require FedEx to divest the TNT Airways fleet if its takeover of TNT Express is allowed to proceed. But just what is that fleet, and what will happen to it when it is divested?
We last visited this subject in 2012, when UPS and TNT were going through what FedEx and TNT are going through now. To conform to EU law, UPS knew it would have to divest the TNT Airways fleet, and negotiated an agreement to sell it (or much of it) to Ireland-based ASL Aviation Group. FedEx and TNT have confirmed that talks are underway with several potential buyers, including ASL, but at this point, other than that the buyer must be based in the EU, that is all that is known.
Before speculating on potential buyers, let’s look at what is being put up for sale. As shown in the chart at right, Cargo Facts can identify 46 aircraft currently owned by, or operated for, TNT Express. The company also owns a small number of aircraft, mostly BAe 146QTs, that are in storage.
TNT Express owns two carriers: TNT Airways, which operates out of Liege, Belgium; and Pan Air, which is based in Madrid, Spain. In discussing the divestment, it is important to remember that it is only these two operations that must be divested. If FedEx chooses to continue to have West Atlantic, for example, operate two 737-300Fs and a 767-200F after the acquisition, it can do so without running afoul of EU law. Whether it would choose to do so is another question, but there is no legal requirement to end that arrangement, or similar arrangements with Bluebird Cargo, Cygnus Air, Farnair (now owned by ASL), Jet Time, or SprintAir.
But TNT Airways and Pan Air will have to go.
However, they don’t have to go in their entirety to a single buyer. Cargo Facts expects that the freighters currently operated by Pan and TNT Airways will wind up in several different places. Some, particularly the BAe 146s and 737-300Fs, will be retired. The three 777Fs could well wind up in FedEx’s own fleet. The twelve 737-400Fs could be a reasonable package for one of the bigger European carriers that already specialize in providing ACMI support to the integrators and major postal services – ASL and West Atlantic are the obvious candidates, but there are others. The 757-200F and -200 Combi could easily be part of such a package, or might find a separate home.
Which leaves the 747-400ERFs. TNT Airways operates two of these for TNT Express, and the other two on an ACMI basis for Emirates, and finding homes for them is a more interesting problem, but hardly insoluble.
This is all speculation, of course, at this point, but it does seem extremely unlikely that there is a European airline that would be interested in taking over the entire TNT Airways/Pan Air fleet in a single big lump.
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