VLM Airlines files for bankruptcy

The regional airline announced that all its flights had been cancelled ‘with immediate effect’.

VLM had applied to a court in its home city for bankruptcy protection in May when it presented a turnaround plan aiming to put it back into profit by the middle of next year.

But it issued a statement on its website yesterday saying: “We are sorry to have to inform you that VLM Airlines has filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday June 22 2016. All flights are cancelled with immediate effect.”

VLM Airlines started operations in May 1993 with a scheduled service between Antwerp International Airport and London City Airport.

On 24 December 2007, Air France-KLM announced that they had signed an agreement for a full takeover of the company from Panta Holdings. In 2008 the airline reported its tenth consecutive year of profits; for the year ending 31 December 2007 it had a net profit of 3.6m euros. Turnover grew to 112m euros and passenger numbers rose 9% to 745,781 during 2007.

Air France-KLM announced on 28 May 2009 that VLM Airlines would gradually start to operate under the brand name CityJet. The name CityJet was already in use by the Irish regional partner of Air France-KLM. In 2010 the name VLM Airlines had been replaced altogether by CityJet. This merger was never completed.

VLM used to promote itself as Europe’s leading “Business Airline” and tried to reflect this in its pursuit of superior service. Passengers were served fresh meals on board, and were able to request a vegetarian or kosher meal at the time of reservation. Meals were presented on a half-tray, and all passengers were served drinks in real glasses with tea and coffee served in china cups. .

In early 2014, following the sale of CityJet by Air France to German investor Intro Aviation, the latter decided to “demerge” Cityjet and VLM. VLM would from then on provide aircraft and crews on ACMI basis.

In October 2014, however, the management of VLM Airlines undertook a Management buyout and VLM became independent from CityJet and Intro Aviation. The CEO, Arthur White, became the majority shareholder. In the same month the airline signed a contract to lease two Sukhoi Superjet 100s, with options for 12 more, as a possible replacement for the Fokker 50s, to be delivered from April 2015. This date was later revised to 2016 due to certification delays, however the order was completely cancelled.

In March 2015, it was announced that VLM would take over two routes from Waterford Airport, Ireland to the UK which were previously served by Stobart Air and Flybe. The routes to London Luton and Birmingham started late April 2015 and continues throughout 2016. In June 2015, VLM announced it would shut down all operations to and from their new base at Liège Airport (to Avignon, Nice and Venice) after only six weeks of service, due to low demand. In December 2015, VLM Airlines announced to base three aircraft at Friedrichshafen Airport in Germany by February 2016 to take over the domestic routes to Berlin, Düsseldorf and Hamburg previously provided by bankrupt regional carrier InterSky.

VLM Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection at a court in Antwerp after accumulating € 6 million of debt. Bankrupcty protection was granted for a duration of six months on 25 May 2016. VLM planed to continue its operations as usual at this time. Since the bankrupcty protection was announced, several pilots left the airline and charter customers reduced their assignments heavily which led to further financial struggles.

VLM Airlines announced to terminate its flights from Waterford Airport, where it maintained a base, to London-Luton on short notice by 13 June 2016, leaving Waterford without any scheduled traffic.

On 22 June 2016, People’s Viennaline announced the cancellation of its ACMI contract with VLM without further notice stating a lack of quality in the provided services, e. g. several delays and cancellations. Later on the same day, VLM Airlines declared bankruptcy. All flights were cancelled with immediate effect and all planes grounded. The airline’s official website was shut down a few hours later.

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