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TransAer goes belly-up, a victim of Kosovo war

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Liquidators moved in this week to sort out the debts and untangle the Irish and international assets of the Dublin-based charter company Trans’r, which has collapsed with the lost of about 550 jobs.

Former pilot and Ryanair chief executive P.J. McGoldrick set up the private company.

The liquidator was appointed following unsuccessful merger talks with the UK-based HeavyLift Cargo Airlines and unsuccessful efforts to find an alternative investor.

About 300 of the staff are based in Dublin with the rest are in Britain, Greece, Germany and other destinations the company flew to.

Chief executive Willie O’Byrne said Trans’r staff were shocked by the collapse because the business had been built on confidence and there had been no leaks about the "very critical cash problems" the company faced.

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He said the company had been badly hit by the no-fly zone established by NATO during the Kosovo war last year that affected the Adriatic and the east coast of Italy.

"We have three aircraft based in Crete and Rhodes and the no-fly zone effectively made their journeys back to northern Europe considerably longer, involving us in extra cost which could not be passed on," O’Byrne told RTE.

"Our markets in Germany and Italy were particularly sensitive to the highlycharged situation in southeast Europe and tourist numbers plummeted and left us with cancelled programs."

Trans’r had also lost a $20 million invested in TransMeredian, a sister airline in the U.S. in which Trans’r held a 49 percent stake. The original business strategy had been for TransMeredian to provide a winter home for Trans’r’s summer charter aircraft.

"The seminal event which actually triggered the collapse of TransMeredian was the loss of an engine on one of it’s Airbus 320 units in midsummer when they were not in a position to have spare available.

"It took them five weeks to source another unit and in that time they lost a critical aircraft contract. So there was really a cascade of disasters that forced it ultimately into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late September."

The legislation that would have given the company a second chance was not available.

To go into examinership instead of liquidation would have required it to show it had a positive cash flow for the next three months. This wasn’t possible heading into the winter months.

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