US freight specialist UPS is to sell the rights of TNT Airways to a third party after its acquisition of Dutch-based logistics firm TNT Express.
TNT Airways cannot be integrated under UPS ownership owing to restrictions on foreign investment in European Union carriers.
UPS says it is "taking the necessary steps to resolve this issue" following the acquisition decision. It will sell "all specific airline rights" to a third party "shortly after close", says a spokesman for the company.
"As part of an initial analysis, UPS is assuming that TNT aircraft will not be retained in the long run as UPS has recently completed its acquisition of a significant number of aircraft," he adds.
TNT Airways has access to a fleet including three Boeing 777 freighters, leased from Guggenheim Aviation Partners and introduced last year.
It has just secured 180min extended twin-engined operations (ETOPS) approval for these aircraft, having obtained 90min ETOPS in September and 120min ETOPS in November.
"This was the ultimate target the company wanted to reach for this aircraft type," says TNT Airways, adding that it is the first carrier in Belgium to gain the clearance.
TNT Airways' long-haul fleet also includes Boeing 747-400ERFs but the carrier has been disposing of the type as part of an effort to reduce capacity.
Its short-haul fleet includes British Aerospace 146s as well as various types - Airbus A300-600s, Boeing 767s, 757s and 737s - sourced through other operators.
UPS has young 767s and 747s in its fleet and was a customer for some of the last A300s off the production line. It does not use 777 freighters but has a large fleet of Boeing MD-11Fs and 757s.
In its merger protocol detailing the tie-up with TNT Express, UPS says the two sides will ensure that TNT's airline operations will be "able to continue to operate despite the change in ownership and control".