Maastricht Airlines has been forced to file for bankruptcy after one of the Dutch start-up's major shareholders withdrew their support, citing a recent employee dispute.
The airline has launched an immediate search for a new shareholder and continues to plan for a September 2013 launch, commercial director Paul Sies tells Flightglobal.
He says that Dutch law obliges Maastricht to file for bankruptcy due to the "liquidity problem" created by its shareholder's withdrawal.
A court-appointed executor will start work early next week to evaluate the prospects for the airline in light of its loss of capital, Sies adds. Maastricht has not identified the shareholder in question, but their stake is in the region of 40%.
The airline's troubles started in March, when the delivery of the first of its two Fokker 50 turboprops was delayed.
This resulted in around 40 employees being placed in a "temporary unemployment scheme," Sies explains. Four of those staff members, all cabin crew, subsequently launched legal action against the airline, which necessitated court approval of its restructuring plan.
Negative publicity surrounding this dispute rattled one of Maastricht's shareholders, in turn prompting their decision to withdraw support for the start-up.
However, Sies voices optimism that a bridging loan can be secured and a new investor sourced, citing strong local support for the start-up. The airline is still accepting reservations, he notes.
One of Maastricht's planned Fokker 50s is ready for delivery, while the second unit is currently undergoing inspections.
The court case launched by the four disaffected employees is due to be heard on 5 June, Sies adds. There is no immediate timeframe for the separate bankruptcy proceedings.