13,000 stranded after French airline collapses

France's second-largest airline Aigle Azur, which went into receivership this week, plans to cancel all flights starting Friday night as it seeks a takeover bid to save the company. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2019

13,000 stranded after French airline collapses

  • The airline filed for bankruptcy and suspended flights last week after losses which prompted a shareholder coup that ousted the chief executive
  • Air France chartered two special flights on Saturday and then again on Sunday to help passengers booked on Algeria flights

PARIS: Some 13,000 passengers, mainly booked on flights to and from Algeria, are still stranded after France’s second-largest airline Aigle Azur went into receivership, a senior French official said Monday, adding that several potential buyers had been identified.
The airline, which employs almost 1,200 staff, filed for bankruptcy and suspended flights last week after losses which prompted a shareholder coup that ousted the chief executive.
“Out of 19,000 passengers who found themselves in difficulty at the peak of the crisis, there are still 13,000” who have yet to be repatriated, the secretary of state for transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told the Le Parisien daily.
He said these included 11,000 passengers booked on flights into and out of Algeria, 600 on Mali flights as well as other destinations ranging from Russia to Lebanon.
Air France chartered two special flights on Saturday and then again on Sunday to help passengers booked on Algeria flights, which flew out one quarter full but were full on the return.
“The hardest moment of the crisis will be over before the end of the week. At least half the passengers (affected) will have been repatriated,” Djebbari said.
The airline transported last year some 1.9 million passengers, with destinations in Algeria making up half of its operations that brought in 300 million euros ($329 million) of revenue.
“There needs to be a serious buyer who is capable of offering guarantees for a maximum number of employees. The good news is that many (potential buyers) have expressed interest,” said Djebbari.
He said the former chief executive of Air France’s subsidiary Hop!, Lionel Guerin, was among interested parties, backed by a team of aviation professionals with financial support.
He added that Air France itself also appeared interested in making an offer.
“This shows there is still an interest in Aigle Azur,” he added. Neither party has so far publicly confirmed an interest, with Air France declining to comment on an “evolving” situation.
According to union officials, Air France could be interested in the medium-haul routes to Algeria and the Dubreuil group, the majority shareholder in Air Caraibes, the long haul routes to destinations like Brazil and Mali.
The largest shareholder in Aigle Azur is the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, with a 49-percent stake.
David Neeleman, an American airline entrepreneur whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32 percent, and French businessman Gerard Houa owns 19 percent.

Meanwhile, British carrier easyJet has expressed an interest in collapsed airline Aigle Azur's operations at Paris Orly airport, a spokesman said on Monday.


US to extend license for its companies to continue business with Huawei

Updated 35 min 16 sec ago

US to extend license for its companies to continue business with Huawei

  • A longer extension is in the works but has not yet been finalized due to regulatory hurdles

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is set to issue a two-week extension of a license allowing US companies to continue doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies, two sources familiar with the deliberations said.

The extension of around two weeks is far shorter than the prior 90-day extension and a longer extension is in the works but has not yet been finalized due to regulatory hurdles, said one source who was briefed on the matter.

After adding Huawei to an economic blacklist in May citing national security concerns, the US Commerce Department has allowed it to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.

The extension will be announced on Monday, when the earlier reprieve is set to expire, the sources said, declining to be identified as the extension has not been publicly announced.

A spokesman for Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecom network equipment, said the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. The Commerce Department declined to comment.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US added Huawei to an economic blacklist in May citing national security concerns.
  • The Commerce Department is also considering whether to grant individual licenses for US firms to sell components to Huawei.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network on Friday that some rural carriers need the temporary licenses and are dependent on Huawei for 3G and 4G networks.

“There are enough problems with telephone service in the rural communities — we don’t want to knock them out. So, one of the main purposes of the temporary general licenses is to let those rural guys continue to operate,” Ross said.

The development comes amid discussions between the US and China aimed at coming to an initial agreement to resolve a trade war that has lasted for over a year.

In blacklisting Huawei, the US government said it had a “reasonable basis to conclude that Huawei is engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests.” Huawei has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday Huawei and ZTE Corp. “cannot be trusted,” as he backed a proposal to bar US rural wireless carriers from tapping an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase equipment or services from them.

In May, President Donald Trump also signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and barring US companies from using telecommunications equipment made by companies posing a national security risk. The Commerce Department was due to draw up an enforcement plan by mid-October but has yet to publish one.

The Commerce Department is also considering whether to grant individual licenses for US firms to sell components to Huawei after receiving more than 200 requests.