Israir To Acquire Majority Share in Smartwings

Credit: Joe Pries

ISTANBUL– Israir, the Israeli airline and tourism group, will take a majority share in ACMI provider and charter carrier Smartwings by the end of June. It also plans to develop an aviation center on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

“We are in negotiations in buying control of Czech-based Smartwings Group,” Israir CEO Uri Sirkis told ATW on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Istanbul. “We have been working on this deal for one-and-a-half years.”

Chinese investment group CEFC China Energy holds 49.9% of Israir and has announced it is ready to complete the transaction with Israir.

“They are ready to close the deal and this should be completed by the end of June,” Sirkis said.

Once the deal is complete, nothing will initially change operationally at Smartwings. “But of course, Israir has a vision for it. We have a plan. But we won't make any major changes at the very beginning,” Sirkis said.

“Smartwings generally is an ACMI company as well operating charter flights,” he added. “They have several AOCs: In Paris, Warsaw, Prague and Budapest. We intend to operate those as scheduled flights.”

According to the Aviation Week Fleet Intelligence Network, Smartwings operates two Airbus A320s, 21 Boeing 737-800s, two 737-700s, two 737-900s and eight 737 MAX 8s. Israir’s fleet comprises six A320s, with plans to add a seventh.

In February, Israir agreed to purchase 50% of Cypriot MRO provider Bird Aviation for $3 million.

“With this MRO we can serve our own fleet of six A320s, but we’re also thinking about expansion,” Sirkis said.

Bird Aviation is EASA-approved for line and heavy maintenance on A320-family aircraft, including neos, and for line maintenance on the A330ceo.

Israir plans to double the MRO’s capacity, but also make Bird an aviation center, with training for flight attendants and pilots, including Airbus full-flight simulators, as well as spare part storage.

“Once you are in contact with airlines [for MRO], why are you not providing additional services, like training, to them?” Sirkis said.

Kurt Hofmann

Kurt Hofmann has been writing on the airline industry for 25 years. He appears frequently on Austrian, Swiss and German television and broadcasting…