Transbrasil met its second extended deadline to file a restructuring plan, but it still faces a battle to win back its operating licence and avoid permanent loss of all routes and airport terminals.

Symbolic of its troubles, the plan Transbrasil filed with Brazil's civil aviation director (DAC) is signed by a former president because the airline had failed after a two-week search to find a replacement. Chaos prevailed as Transbrasil approached its first extended deadline on 1 February. An attempted mid-January rescue by controversial entrepreneur Dilson Prado da Fonseca ran into a buzzsaw of opposition. His agreement to buy 78% of the company from the Fontana family for a symbolic 1 real plus assumption of the airline's debts of 900 million real ($366 million), prompted a host of investigations. After 10 days of turmoil the Fontana family rescinded the deal and appointed a new president. But the new man quit three days later after discovering the depth of the airline's disarray.

A week later the DAC withdrew Transbrasil's operating licence but agreed to reconsider if the airline filed an acceptable restructuring plan by 14 February. Questions have already surfaced about this plan. It calls for an injection of 25 million real in new capital, but does not explain who would fund it. It proposes to transfer most shares to a foundation that would hold them for airline employees, but majority voting rights would remain with the Fontana family. Antonio Cipriani, who was Transbrasil's president before the rescue bid, would head the foundation.

Complicating matters further, Fonseca claims his takeover was improperly rejected and he is still Transbrasil's president. While he threatens lawsuits, the Fontana family has ordered phone lines to company headquarters cut in an effort to oust him.

Amid this drama, Brazil's TAM has trimmed overseas operations, including dropping services to Frankfurt and Zurich altogether, to focus on internal services and is pressing the DAC to reassign Transbrasil's domestic routes.

Source: Airline Business