Published on February 9th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
ASL Aviation Group to acquire the airline operations of TNT Express N.V while other new services are announced
The ASL Aviation Group can trace its origins back to Air Bridge Carriers in the United Kingdom, which was formed in 1972. The company was subsequently acquired by the Hunting Group, before being sold to a consortium consisting of Compagnie Maritime Belge NV from Belgium and Safair (Pty) Ltd, from South Africa, (then part of the Imperial Group). This prompted a change of name to Air Contractors (ACL). In 2007, Imperial disposed of all its aviation-related businesses, which were acquired by CMB and 3P Airfreighters. At the same time, an interest was acquired in Europe Airpost and its fleet of Boeing 737 Classic aircraft, operating a combination of postal and passenger activities. This prompted the decision to rename the holding company ASL Aviation Group to co-ordinate the different operating companies under a new identity.
Most recently ASL, which is based in Swords, Co. Dublin, completed the acquisition in December 2014, of the Farnair Group in Switzerland. According to an article on sfhconseil.com, the acquisition increases the number of affiliate airlines in ASL to seven and the number of aircraft owned and/or operated in the fleet to over 100. ASL can now avail of Air Operators Certificates (AOCs) in Europe, South Africa, South East Asia and India, enabling entry into new and growing markets. Rounding off this established and profitable aviation group, are two support services companies and various leasing entities. In 2015, the ASL Aviation Group had revenues of €382 million. Across the group, the new rebranding announced in last June and which includes its four European airlines, is proceeding, while new projects and services continue to be announced.
ASL signs conditional agreement to acquire the airline operations of TNT Express N.V
On 5th February, the ASL Aviation Group announced that it had reached agreement to acquire the airline operations of TNT Express N.V. (hereafter TNT), consisting of TNT Airways (Belgium) and Pan Air Líneas Aéreas (Spain). The agreement is conditional on the completion of the intended acquisition of TNT by FedEx, which is expected in the first half of 2016.
The announcement followed the approval by the European Commission of small package delivery services provider TNT Express, by FedEx, which followed an in-depth investigation by the Commission, which opened in July 2015. The in-depth investigation opened by the Commission was prompted by concerns, that the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in certain markets for international deliveries of small packages (up to 31.5kg), in the European Economic Area (EEA). In its statement on 8th January 2016, the Commission say that it had “concluded that the acquisition will not give rise to competition concerns.” This was because “FedEx and TNT are not particularly close competitors and because the merged entity will continue to face sufficient competition from its rivals in all markets concerned”.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, commented: “Many businesses and consumers rely heavily on affordable and reliable small package delivery services, in particular with the growth of e-commerce. Therefore, the Commission has thoroughly assessed the markets affected by this takeover. The conclusion is that European consumers will not be adversely affected by the transaction. We have therefore unconditionally approved the merger.”
FedEx and TNT are two out of four so-called ‘integrators’ currently operating in the small package delivery sector in Europe. Integrators are companies that control a comprehensive air and road small package delivery network and are capable of offering a broad portfolio of reliable delivery services. The other integrators are Europe-based DHL, owned by Deutsche Post, and US-based UPS. With a European market share of 17%, the combined FedEx-TNT will be Europe’s second-biggest delivery services business, behind Deutsche Post’s DHL and ahead of UPS. The deal also strengthens FedEx’s position as the world’s No.3 player.
In 2013, the Commission prohibited the planned acquisition of TNT by UPS. At the time, the Commission found that the takeover was likely to harm customers by causing price increases. This conclusion was, amongst other things, based on the fact that FedEx did not exert a significant competitive constraint, in a number of national markets for intra-EEA express delivery services. In its investigation in the present case, the Commission replicated the same assessment as was undertaken in the UPS/TNT case, both for intra-EEA express and for extra-EEA markets, thus ensuring full consistency with its previous practice.
The acquisition by ASL and change of ownership and control of TNT’s airline operations will ensure continuity of service delivery, as well as compliance with EU airline ownership and control rules. As part of the agreement, ASL Aviation Group will take over the flights operated by TNT Airways and Pan Air Líneas Aéreas, from the moment the sale is completed. ASL Aviation Group expects that the airlines will maintain contracts with partner airlines, contractors and suppliers.
In conjunction with the transaction, ASL Aviation Group has entered a multi-year service agreement with TNT to operate flights for the intended FedEx-TNT combination. ASL Aviation Group will continue to serve multiple airline customers.
Hugh Flynn, Chief Executive of ASL Aviation Group, said: “We are delighted to agree on this key strategic step in our growth and it underlines our commitment to be the preferred neutral aviation services provider to the intended FedEx-TNT combination once the transaction closes. We look forward to welcoming the teams at TNT Airways and Pan Air to ASL Aviation and having them become a valued part of our group. As a global aviation services provider with operations on 6 continents and a post-transaction fleet of more than 130 aircraft, we will continue to use our strength and stability to offer the best possible service to all of our customers.”
Tex Gunning, Chief Executive Officer of TNT, said: “With ASL Aviation Group, we have found an experienced aviation group that can meet the high service standards that we have implemented at TNT over the last two years. I wish to thank all the employees of TNT Airways and Pan Air for their dedication and hard work over the years.”
Upon completion of the airline acquisition, employees of TNT Airways and Pan Air Líneas Aéreas will become part of ASL Aviation Group. TNT operates a fleet of about 35 aircraft and also uses about 20 aircraft on wet leases to supplement its operations. TNT Airlines have about 580 staff including air crew and ground staff. The employees’ current terms and conditions of employment will be respected and it is intended that the TNT Airways headquarters in Liège will be maintained. However, TNT’s Liège hub (Eurohub) is not part of the airlines sale. Further details of the transaction will not be disclosed.
ASL Airlines France renews its contract with La Poste Group
On 6th January 2016, it was announced that ASL Airlines France, formerly known as Europe Airpost, and La Poste Group had renewed their partnership for the transport by air of courier and express freight. The contract first agreed in 2000 and regularly renewed since then, has been signed for a further period of three years. ASL Airlines France is the French airline within the ASL Group, certified ISO 9001:2008 with dual passenger transportation (scheduled and charter) and cargo activity. It is the successor to L’Aéropostale and it has built its reputation on a flawless quality of service in favour of its clients, carriers, postal and express freight operators and tour operators.
Under the contract ASL Airlines France will operate cargo flights on behalf of La Poste Group, five nights a week (Monday to Friday) on the following routes:
Bordeaux-Paris Charles de Gaulle airport-Bordeaux, Lyon-Paris (CDG)-Lyon, Nice-Marseille-Paris (CDG)-Marseille-Nice, Ajaccio-Marseille-Paris (CDG)-Marseille-Ajaccio, Marseille-Rennes-Marseille (for 18 months), Brest-Paris (CDG)-Brest.
ASL Airlines France also provides feeder flights to Corsica from Marseille on Saturdays and Sundays.
Flights under this new contract commenced on 4th January at the conclusion of the previous contract ensuring the continuity of the operation of postal flights operated by ASL Airlines France.
ASL Airlines France launches new seasonal services this summer
During January, ASL Airlines France confirmed in two separate announcements, new seasonal services for this summer. From 17th June to 18th September 2016, the airline will offer two weekly flights between Paris (CDG) and Sainte-Catherine Airport or Aéroport de Calvi – Sainte-Catherine (CLY/LFKC), on the northwest coast of the island of Corsica. This will be the airlines first regular service to the island, although it has been present in Corsica for more than 15 years, transporting mail and parcels on behalf of La Poste, and newspapers on behalf of Presstalis group. It also operated passenger charter flights to and from Corsica, until last year, on behalf of tour operators. ASL will compete with HOP! Air France and Air Corsica on this route, although both operate from Paris Orly.
ASL are offering fares from €59 each way, including taxes, booking fees included and luggage included (within the limits of the permitted allowance). Departures are scheduled Friday and Sunday as follows:-
From Paris (CDG) at 17:30, arrive in Calvi at 19.10.
From Calvi at 20:00 arrive in Paris (CDG) at 21.40.
(operates a half hour earlier from 2nd to 18th September).
“We know the route having offered tourist charter flights for many years,” said Jean-Francois Dominiak, CEO of ASL Airlines France in a statement, “with this new summer scheduled service, we bring a more appropriate response to customer demand today.”
ASL also announced the opening of three new routes to Hamburg from Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille. “They respond to the increasing demand for direct air links between European cities, and the frequencies and schedules of our flights are aimed both at business clients as a leisure clientele. We are therefore confident in the success of these lines” said Monsieur Dominiak.
Fares are offered from €49 each way, including taxes, booking fees and baggage included (within the limits of the permitted allowance) with the following schedule:-
Bordeaux, effective 5th May, twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays (2:10 flight time).
– From Bordeaux at 08:35, arriving in Hamburg at 10:45.
– From Hamburg at 11:40, arrival in Bordeaux at 13:50.
Lyon, from 2nd May 2016, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays (1:45 flight time).
– From Lyon at 07.30, arriving in Hamburg 09:15.
– From Hamburg at 15:50, arriving in Lyon at 17:35.
Marseille, effective 2nd May 2016, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays (2 hour flight time).
– From Hamburg at 10:05, arriving in Marseille at 12:05.
– From Marseille at 12:55, arriving in Hamburg at 15:00.
All the new flights will be operated by Boeing 737-300 with a capacity of 147 seats.
During the summer season 2016 ASL will also serve:
– Vienna from Bordeaux and Toulouse
– and Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) from Paris-CDG and Dublin.
ASL Airlines France to extend Dublin – Halifax summer service
Earlier ASL had announced the renewal and expansion of its direct scheduled summer service between Dublin and Halifax, Nova Scotia this summer. An enhanced programme will operate from July to mid-October 2016, on an extended period of three and a half months, instead of two months last year and again it will operate, weekly, between Paris (CDG) and Halifax via Dublin.
Monsieur Dominiak, in confirming the expansion for the 2016 summer season, said he was “very happy” that they had “contributed to the reinforcement of links between Ireland and Nova Scotia, and generated new traffic flows”. “The high quality of our service along with our low fares is very much appreciated by our Irish passengers, and demonstrates that our offer meets the customer’s expectations” he added.
The airline recorded a positive 2015 season with 727 passengers being carried to and from Dublin, with a 47.5%/52.5% split between inward and outbound traffic to and from Halifax. Together with the passengers who travelled on the Dublin – Paris (CDG) sectors this contributed to a successful and positive result. The customer satisfaction rate for these flights, as measured by surveys conducted regularly on board, was 97%.
ASL files application to fly new transatlantic service
ASL Airlines France has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation, for authority to fly its Boeing 737-700 aircraft between Paris (CDG) and T.F. Green Airport in Providence. T. F. Green Airport is a public international airport in Warwick, six miles south of Providence, in Kent County, Rhode Island, United States. This service would also stop in Ireland and discussions have taken place between Shannon Airport Management and the French airline.
In its application, the airline is seeking a foreign air carrier permit granting it the same full rights available to other EU Member State air carriers. With that permit in hand, ASL Airlines will be allowed to fly scheduled and unscheduled and charter flights of people, cargo and property. ASL already holds a Canadian AOC. While ASL waits for this permit, it is asking for an exemption that will allow it to begin service for one year, or until the permit becomes effective.
That is a normal practice for airlines who want to test the waters in a new market, according to Patti Goldstein, senior vice president of marketing and communications, for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC). “When they are coming into a market there’s a lot of risk,” she said. “They come in and see how it works”.
RIAC has been successful in attracting Condor Airlines, which flies to Frankfurt from June to September and Cabo Verde Airlines, who provide services to the city of Praia on the island of Santiago and connecting service to Cape Verdean islands of Fogo, Sao Vincente, Sal and Boa Vista, year round. There was also an effort to bring in Ryanair to fly in and out of Shannon, “in 2007, 2009, 2010 and so on”, according to Patti Goldstein. “Ireland is very much one of our target markets,” she added.
ASL Airlines Ireland (formerly Air Contractors)
ASL Airlines Ireland (formerly Air Contractors), continues to operate its single Boeing 737-31S EI-STA on passenger charters. Most recently it was noted operating charters out of Dublin to Paris and Chambery as well as Bristol and Cardiff. The aircraft has adopted the new ASL Airlines Ireland corporate style, having initially positioned to Shannon on 7th December, where it entered the ASL Airlines hangar. for repainting. It emerged with an all-white tail and with ASL Airlines fuselage titles and logo, departing back to Dublin on 18th December. It returned to Shannon on 9th January to have additional ASL tail titles added. It returned to Dublin on 15th January.
ASL Airlines Ireland has acquired a fourth Boeing 757 for the Aer Lingus contract. The aircraft, Boeing 757-2Y0, N135CA (c/n 26160), arrived from Goodyear via Bangor on 1st November 2015, in full National colours for ASL airlines, as EI-CJX. This 22 year old aircraft was originally delivered to Transaero Airlines as EI-CJX on 1st April 1994. It spent most of its active career as G-FCLJ with Flying Colours, JMC Airlines, Ryan International, Thomas Cook UK and WestJet Airlines. The aircraft reverted to its original registration, EI-CJX on 19th November last. It was moved to the Atlantic Aviation hangar on 18th December for pre-service maintenance and modification, still in National Airlines colours.
Airbus A300-622R-F ex HL7244, was registered as EI-OZM on 28th August 2015 and was ferried Istanbul to Leipzig Halle Airport on delivery on 20th January 2016. A second Airbus A300-622R-F ex HL7299 was registered on 1st September 2015, as EI-OZL, is currently in service.
Turning to the ATR fleet, ATR 72-212A, EI-SOP ex 4X-AVW of Arkia – Israeli Airlines was added to the fleet on 12th October 2015. ATR 72-201(F) EI-SLR ex HB-AFG was noted re-registered at Basle on 15th November, following transfer to ASL Airlines (Ireland), from the former Farnair division. It was painted into DHL c/s at East Midlands in early January. Another ex Farnair aircraft, EI-SLT, ex HB-AFN, still in basic Farnair c/s, was re-registered on 19th January 2016. Meanwhile, although not part of the ASL Airlines (Ireland), ATR72-212A, HB-ACE, was painted in ASL Airlines colours at East Midlands, after which it was ferried to Basle on 10th November 2015.
ASL Group completes new funding agreement
The ASL Group has confirmed that it recently completed a new $110 million (around €98.2 million) funding agreement aimed at assisting its ongoing growth and expansion plans. The funding facility has been agreed with a two-bank club deal who are providing a bespoke asset finance facility. BNP Paribas coordinated the transaction and through its Paris & Brussels offices is providing $60 million (around €53.55 million). The Birmingham, U.K. office of Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking is providing $50 million (around €44.6 million).
The facility builds on the strong existing relationship ASL Aviation Group has with both institutions and further enhances ASL’s ability to remain at the forefront of its business. ASL Group Chief Financial Officer Mark O’Kelly said the new agreement is a “welcome development that underlines ASL’s reputation as market leader in our sector”.
“Initially the funding will assist our Platform for Growth strategy and we look forward to building on this and on the already excellent relationships we have with both banks as the Group continues to consolidate and grow”, said Mr. O’Kelly Guy Haesevoets, Client Director at BNP Paribas Fortis, said: “BNP Paribas has been supporting ASL Aviation for many years in the funding of their growth strategy with the financing of acquisitions in France and Switzerland. This aircraft finance deal that was structured and coordinated by BNPP’s Aviation Finance Team, will provide ASL with additional means to further develop its business worldwide.” Mark Lewis, relationship director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, add: “We worked closely with our Commercial Finance colleagues to provide a corporate asset finance facility that allows the ASL Group to quickly access working capital to take advantage of emerging growth opportunities.”
ASL Airlines Ireland (formerly Air Contractors), has become the first Irish airline to win the highly prestigious ERA Airline of the Year ‘Gold Award’. The award was announced at the ERA General Assembly in Berlin, Germany, on the night of 14th October with the judges citing the airline’s “successful strategic advance into passenger ACMI flying, including the implementation of Boeing 757 transatlantic operations for Aer Lingus and Boeing 737 operations for Ryanair.”
The judges noted ASL Airlines Ireland “clever diversification from core freight operations while continuing to have success in that sector also”. This was the 21st year of ERA Airline of the Year Awards and the first time a Gold Award has been won by an Irish airline. Previously Irish airlines have won Silver and Bronze awards. The award was presented to ASL Airlines Ireland by Patrick de Castelbajac, Chief Executive of Aircraft Manufacturer ATR, who sponsored the awards. This is the second major award for ASL Airlines Ireland during 2015. In May the airline won ‘Irish Aircraft Operator of the Year’ at the Irish Aviation Authority Awards in Dublin.