MK Airlines to transfer fleet to UK registry

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Freight carrier MK Airlines is to switch its fleet to the UK register as part of a plan to increase business flexibility, after years of operating on the registry of Ghana.

It marks the latest stage in a development plan for the carrier, which has undergone a change of ownership in recent months after a private equity investor agreed to take a majority shareholding in the airline.

MK Airlines’ fleet has been on the Ghanaian registry since the carrier was founded 15 years ago. It presently operates 14 aircraft, a mix of Boeing 747 and McDonnell Douglas DC-8 freighters.

This month the airline will submit an application to the UK Civil Aviation Authority to transfer its 747 fleet to the UK registry – a process which will take about six months to complete – but it has yet to decide whether to transfer the DC-8 fleet as well.

Speaking to ATI at an event in London, MK Airlines chief executive Mike Kruger said: “It’s always been the long-term strategic plan. It will open up a whole lot of new business.”

Kruger says the carrier will “look closely” at re-registering the DC-8s but adds the 747 is the primary focus for the carrier’s operations owing to its economic advantages.

He adds the UK is “well-positioned” to allow the company to implement a global expansion plan and describes the re-registration as a “logical step” for the airline. About half of its workforce of 450 personnel is based in the UK.

Kruger – a native Zimbabwean who has just gained UK citizenship – insists the shift to the UK register is completely unconnected with the US regulatory decision to impose restrictions on operations by Ghanaian-registered aircraft. He says that MK Airlines, which serves around 30 destinations, conducts its main business in areas such as the Asia-Pacific region – including China and Macau – as well as the Middle East and Africa.

“If anything the USA is quite a weak market at the moment,” he says.

Under an investment agreement, MK Airlines is now majority-owned by private equity house Northcote Holding, an Isle of Man-based company. Investor Farhad Moshiri, who is linked to steel production and energy sector businesses, is behind Northcote’s backing of MK Airlines.

Moshiri tells ATI the equity house sees air cargo as a growing sector and says MK Airlines is a “very good” carrier that “will be more valuable” as a result of the registration transfer.

MK Airlines has its administrative centre at Hartfield in the southern UK and a maintenance base at Filton near Bristol. The carrier used to conduct many of its services out of Kent International Airport outside London but recently shifted its European base to Ostend in Belgium.