March 25th, 2016 — the date that Pat Byrne, and his management announced they had purchased CityJet (WX) from turnaround experts Intro Aviation. Things were looking up for the formerly ailing regional carrier. After years of drifting through the doldrums as the forgotten member of the Air France-KLM group, it was expected that they would go their own direction, focus on their rebrand and begin again as Ireland’s premier regional airline.

Since then, what has happened? A lot. With losses dropping to €10 million from €30.6 million according to the most recent numbers published by the airline (2014-2015 year on year results, Nov ‘16) the airline looks well on track to recording a profit within its first five years of self-ownership. Along with new ownership, new aircraft have arrived too: CityJet is the first Western-European airline to operate the Superjet, and has now reached an agreement to operate three frames on behalf of Brussels Airlines, with these being delivered last month. Similarly, after acquiring former SAS subsidiary Blue1, the carrier has begun operating CRJ-900 services for the Scandinavian airline based from Helsinki using 12 of its own brand new aircraft.

A CityJet CRJ-900 operated for SAS. Photo Credits: CityJet

All is well then it would seem, with Ireland’s premier regional carrier. It would certainly look that way, however it does have an order book filled with aircraft unable to operate from its largest hub, London-City, and as it’s Avros age, they have become more and more unreliable, with Air France, HOP! and Jota Aviation sending stand in aircraft several times throughout the last year. However, until Sukhoi certifies the aircraft (with certification slated to begin in Q4 2017) for LCY approaches, it is yet another enigma within the CityJet brand. The Air France wet lease operation was also to be wound down as both carriers were to focus operating their own aircraft but this has since been reneged, with Cityjet announcing a continuation of the contract until at least 2018, as well as an agreement to operate services for KLM from Belfast. So numbers are up and the fleet rejuvenation has begun, at least partially along with its bread-and-butter routes remaining and new franchise contracts have been sought and found in the form of both Brussels and SAS.

CityJet Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100. Photo Credits: CityJet

The same skills acquired throughout the Air France years have been honed and refined, and along with a new image and new fleet, the airline has been cleaned up altogether. But as BA Cityflyer moves in on their London-City routes, with far more backing than CityJet can muster, and with its main franchise partner Air France continuing to circle the drain, interesting times lie ahead for Pat Byrne’s airline. Only time will tell if they will continue to grow and learn, or if the low cost revolution will claim another victim attempting to fly too close to the sun.

Categories: Industry Talk