Without a clear vision for what the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit aviation relationship with the European Union will look like, carriers with multiple AOCs scattered across the region are preemptively moving aircraft to avoid possible disruptions.
Sweden-headquartered West Atlantic has begun moving aircraft from its U.K.-based carrier, West Atlantic UK, to other affiliate airlines based in Europe. The transfers are being made so as to continue serving customers outside of the U.K., regardless of how ongoing Brexit negotiations turn out, West Atlantic told Cargo Facts.
So far, two 737-800BCFs (32609 and 32612) have been transferred to West Atlantic’s Swedish AOC. Meanwhile, a 737-400F (25372) previously operated by West Atlantic UK was sent to Spain-based affiliate Swiftair.
“We’re moving a number of aircraft out of the U.K. because they serve customers that after Brexit, [likely] won’t be able to be operated by the UK airline,” said Lars Jordahn, CEO of West Atlantic. Jordahn confirmed the transfer of some 737-800BCFs and 737 Classics to West Atlantic Sweden and Spain-based affiliate Swiftair, but with Brexit still a “moving target,” declined to specify the exact number of aircraft being moved.
West Atlantic UK will continue to operate 737 freighters for U.K.-centric business, and will be adding a new fleet type, the ATR 72F, to its operating certificate. “Brexit is a big challenge for us, but behind every challenge is also opportunity,” said Jordahn. An aircraft is being transferred from Swiftair and is currently in the process of being approved by U.K. regulators, according to Jordahn. Cargo Facts believes this may be unit 147, an ATR 72-211F that appears to be being operated by Swiftair on a long-term basis between East Midlands (EMA), Guernsey (GCI) and Jersey (JER).
West Atlantic was acquired last year by Spain-based LUSAT, Swiftair’s parent. The transfers are indicative of closer fleet planning across the group, which consists of five airlines based in Spain, Greece, Sweden and the U.K. The combined active fleet numbers about eighty EMB-120s, ATP, ATRs, CRJs, 737s, 757s and 767s.
Following the U.K.’s exit from the European Union on Jan. 31, carriers have been operating under a status quo “transition” period that is set to expire on Dec. 31, according to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority. It is unclear if the U.K. will be able to resolve its aviation relationship with the E.U. before that date.
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