France’s Aigle Azur joins growing list of failed airlines

Aigle Azur ©AirTeamImages

Aigle Azur (Blue Eagle), France’s second-largest airline, is set to file for bankruptcy protection next Monday after struggling, and failing, to run profitably for many years. The move follows on from last week’s ‘coup’ which removed Frantz Yvelin form the carrier’s helm as chief executive.

Shareholders have accused him of making “strategic mistakes over the past two years” that have ultimately led to the carrier’s demise. Despite transporting 1.9 million passengers and generating revenue of €300 million (US$329 million) last year, last month Aigle Azur looked to offload its Portugal routes to Vueling, a low-cost rival airline. “Aigle Azur is in cession of payments after several years of drifting because of numerous improper strategic decisions, and must ask for commercial court protection,” employees said in a statement after a meeting with management.

As a still operational airline there should be a certain level of interest, with a deadline for bids likely to be set for September 15. Whether bids will be for all or parts of Aigle Azur remains to be seen but currently some 1,150 jobs are at stake, including 350 based in Algeria. The carrier has a strong foothold in the North Africa market. Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which also owns Hainan Airlines, is the largest stakeholder with 49%. David Neeleman, an American airline entrepreneur whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32%t, and Gerard Houa, a French businessman, holds a 19% stake.

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