ASL Aviation Holdings’ new UK cargo airline has carried out its first flight today after becoming the first fixed-wing carrier to secure an air operator certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) since Brexit.

The first ASL Airlines United Kingdom flight was an ATR 72-200 freighter service operating from East Midlands airport to Belfast International airport. The turboprop is the first aircraft on the airline’s AOC and will be deployed on daily flights on the same route.

ASL already runs four European and two non-European airlines. The company says the new UK unit will work closely with ASL’s Irish airline operation, including sharing some support services.

ASL Airlines services Switzerland

Source: ASL Aviation Holdings

ASL Aviation Holdings’ operations include its Swiss freight support services unit together with airlines in Europe, South Africa and Thailand

Group chief operating officer Colin Grant says: ”Our decision to establish a UK airline was customer focussed. We want to offer our customers flexibility in their route planning when they want to operate domestically in the UK, or, in time, to fly from the UK to the EU.”

While the ASL Airlines UK AOC is currently for the operation of cargo flights on a single route, the airline is looking at opportunities to grow its domestic network and is applying for EASA authority to operate cargo flights from the UK to Europe.

Chief executive Dave Andrew says: ”The launch of ASL Airlines UK further strengthens our customer offering as a leading global aviation services provider. We will continue to explore opportunities to grow by offering all customers, new and old, a neutral service with the agility to deliver, develop and grow according to their requirements.”

Demand for freighter capacity has jumped since the pandemic hit due to belly capacity on passenger services falling coupled with high demand to move medical supplies. In February, ASL ordered another 10 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters, bringing to 21 the number of those jets it intends to acquire.