TOUR OPERATOR Unijet is to take full control of Leisure International Airways, by acquiring the 60% equity stake held by the Air UK Group and parent company British Transport Holdings before 30 April, 1997.

The move has been widely predicted following KLM's increased investment in Air UK, presaging a change of emphasis to the core scheduled-airline business.

Chris Parker, chairman of Leisure International and Unijet, says that the time is right for Unijet to take control and to acquire greater flexibility to meet the competitive challenges of the changing charter marketplace.

Unijet, which provides Leisure International with some 48% of its business, will remain its principal customer. In 1995, the airline carried 1.6 million passengers.

Unijet, which in spite of poor market conditions succeeded in limiting its pre-tax losses to around £1.5 million in the financial year to October 1995, anticipated a further dip and reduced the fleet from seven to three aircraft for 1996, replacing its Boeing 737-400s with leased Airbus Industrie A320s.

An order has been confirmed for four Airbus A321s, to be delivered at the rate of one a year from April 1997. Two are being leased from the manufacturer, with the others to be acquired from a leasing company. Because of the downturn, particularly in the short/medium-haul market, Parker expects the European fleet to remain at four aircraft from 1997 to the year 2000.

Equal caution is being applied to the long-haul business, for which Unijet has contracted Monarch Airlines' McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 for three years, before re-assessing its own fleet requirement, in addition to the two Boeing 767-300ERs now operated.

Source: Flight International