Cypriot tour operator Libra Holidays has confirmed it is establishing a new charter carrier, Ajet Airways, to take over flight operations from its beleagured carrier arm Helios Airways.
Libra says the new carrier will use the aircraft and resources of Helios and will operate charter flights only – unlike Helios which also operates scheduled routes.
The move follows the high-profile crash of a Helios Boeing 737-300 on 14 August last year, in which the aircraft ran out of fuel after suffering a pressurisation problem (Flight International, 23-31 August, 2005). All 121 passengers and crew were killed in the accident.
The incident was subject to intense media scrutiny including the publication of photographs purporting to have been taken from the cockpit of a Lockheed Martin F-16 shadowing the 737 as it glided towards its crash site, that were identified by Flight International to be hoaxes.
In a statement Libra says: “Due to the serious problems that Helios Airways encountered just after the tragic accident of August 2005, Helios considered to pass its operations to Ajet Airways.” It says Ajet was registered on 20 January and is wholly-owned by Libra Holidays.
“Under the presumption that all necessary approvals and consents are issued by the relevant authorities, the lease agreements of the aircraft operated by Helios will be reassigned to Ajet which will operate basically as charter flight airline,” it adds.
The statement does not specify the future role of Helios, but Libra group managing director Andreas Drakou is quoted in the Cypriot daily newapaper Cyprus Mail as saying Helios will remain as a company within the group to support the accident investigation committee and to pursue claims against third parties. But he says it will cease carrying out operations.
Larnaca-based Helios, which Libra Holidays acquired in late 2004, currently operates a pair of Boeing 737-800s.
GRAHAM DUNN / LONDON