PRIVATELY OWNED South African airline Phoenix Airways has been taken over by Cape Town-based charter operator Atlantic Air.

The buy out, follows weeks of speculation on imminent bankruptcy hotly denied by the low-fare airline's managing director, Hugo Smit.

The uncertainty surrounding Phoenix in the weeks before the buy-out had been fuelled by its refusal to open its books to the country's Air Services Licensing Council, which was probing consumer complaints and demanding a bond of several million dollars as guarantee against pre-sold tickets.

Del Colussi, Atlantic Air's owner and Phoenix's new chairman, Johan Crouse, say in a joint statement that "...certain major changes will be made at Phoenix that will dispel any misconceptions the public have unjustly had in the past". Among these are the introduction of "proper management", although no wholesale changes have been announced other than the removal of chairman Richard Gain.

Phoenix has been using three leased Boeing 727-100s and will continue operating the Johannesburg-Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth-George routes, but with more realistic pricing.

Source: Flight International