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Citywing collapses in wake of Van Air prohibition

Isle of Man airline Citywing has collapsed, two weeks after its operator, Van Air, was banned from serving its UK route network.

Citywing had been using Czech carrier Van Air’s Let L-410s on regional routes to several UK destinations.

But an incident during adverse weather conditions led to the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s withdrawing Van Air’s route permit on 24 February.

Although it attempted to maintain a framework schedule, using leased capacity from Polish carrier SprintAir, the pressure on Citywing’s finances has proven too great.

“The company has found it difficult to source suitable viable aircraft to fulfil our contracts,” says Citywing. It says it has been suffering “considerable losses” in this effort and that the situation has been “commercially unsustainable”.

Citywing is being put into liquidation and has cancelled all flights from 11 March.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and has been made to protect creditors,” says the company.

Citywing’s demise comes some four years after it emerged from a buy-out of the controversial Manx2 operation.

Manx2 had been established as a ‘virtual’ airline, in which the company marketing and selling fares is separate from the operating carrier which, it turn, could sub-lease aircraft from another party.

This complexity of operations – and issues of liability, lines of responsibility, and safety oversight – became a controversial matter after a fatal accident involving a Manx2 service at Cork in February 2011.

The aircraft, a Fairchild Metro, had been operated by a Spanish company, Flightline BCN, but the inquiry determined that its UK and Irish operations had not been subject to adequate oversight by Spanish authorities.

Citywing ran into problems last month when an L-410, operated by Van Air, returned to the Isle of Man after attempting to conduct a service to Belfast on 23 February – a day on which flight operations in the UK were being disrupted by strong storm winds.

Van Air’s operations in the UK were halted by the UK CAA after an incident involving the aircraft, the full details of which have yet to emerge. But Van Air believes the restriction relates to crosswind limits for the L-410.

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