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  • nordjet415
    Rank 5 Registered User

    Ajet now grounded

    Hi All.

    Another update regarding Ajet which states the airline has been forced to cease flying forthwith and will not remain flying for the next 3 months as previously reported.

    Ajet grounded owing 2m pounds to government

    By Charlie Charalambous

    AJET, formerly Helios Airways, has been grounded only days after the company said it would stop flying in three months because of losses since last year's Helios crash.

    The government decided to ground the planes after civil aviation was informed that Ajet was ceasing its operations immediately while still owing 2m pounds in taxes.

    Attorney General Petros Clerides yesterday filed for a court injunction grounding Ajet aircraft and requested that assets totalling 3m pounds be frozen due to taxes owed.

    A Limassol district court will consider the request to freeze Ajet assets today.

    President Papadopoulos backed the decision, saying the state needed to take action to ensure at least one Ajet aircraft remained in Cyprus in the event assets are to be seized.

    This was little consolation for those passengers stranded at Larnaca Airport expecting to board an Ajet flight.

    Libra Holidays, owners of Ajet, announced to the Nicosia exchange yesterday that the airline was "immediately discontinuing" its flight operations.

    "The immediate discontinuance resulted from the fact the company's creditors after our announcement (to stop flights within three months) demanded immediate settlement, despite the fact it had been agreed to settle Ajet's obligations gradually," said Libra.

    Furthermore, the Civil Aviation department has revoked the airline's operating license.

    The move came after Communications Minister Haris Thrassou banned Ajet flights from take-off on Wednesday, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at Larnaca Airport.

    "Out of the blue, Ajet sent a letter to Civil Aviation saying they were ceasing flights as of today (Wednesday)," said Thrassou.

    "As soon as I was informed of the company's intentions, I gave the order to forbid (Ajet) flights, " he added.

    The decision resulted in a flight from Larnaca Airport to Birmingham being unable to depart with 189 passengers on board.

    They were later flown out on another carrier.

    Ajet slammed the move as a "raid by Civil Aviation" saying a vehicle was placed in front of the Boeing 737-800 to stop it from flying.

    In a statement, Ajet said the inconvenience caused to passengers was "unjustified" and accused the minister of harming tourism and the economy.

    Thrassou said the company's behaviour was "irrational and irresponsible" by first giving a three month timeline before deciding to shut up shop two days later.

    He denied any suggestion of being vindictive towards Ajet, arguing that legal procedures were underway to collect outstanding fees from Cyprus Airways and Eurocypria.

    There were more delays for Ajet travellers yesterday while arrangements were made to ensure planned flights to Sofia and Warsaw were carried on a rented a Eurocypria plane.

    A company insider said the government demanded Θ2m in airport and other outstanding taxes and threatened to ground the planes if the money was not forthcoming.

    "We said we didn't have the money so they went ahead and grounded us, " the source said.

    An airline employee told The Cyprus Weekly that staff were issued redundancy notices on Wednesday afternoon, marking a swift demise for the island's first privately-owned airline, set up in 2001.

    The airline has suffered since the Helios 737 crashed into a Greek hillside last year, killing all 121 on board. A Greek investigation blamed the crash on pilot error and mistakes made on the ground.

    The no frills airline narrowly escaped becoming the first European carrier to be placed on an EU blacklist due to air safety concerns and Brussels put Ajet under "close scrutiny."

    Earlier this week, the airline insisted it would not shirk its responsibility or obligation to relatives and will remain a legal entity pending financial claims against third parties.

    "The company will still exist as a legal entity and remain listed with the registrar of companies," said Ajet lawyer Christos Neocleous.

    Financial losses including initial compensation payouts to Helios relatives is said to be in the region of 10m pounds.

    Ajet announced it was stopping flights within the next three months but all tickets bought by 4,000 customers would be honoured.

    The company said it was returning its two leased Boeing 737-800s because of the hostility shown towards Ajet.

    "The climate is so negative for the company it can no longer make a profit," said a company source.

    "Tour operators have also been hesitant in using Cyprus airlines because of bad publicity surrounding civil aviation since the crash," he added.

    The source said "millions had been lost" by the airline's failure to secure deals with tour operators.

    "We changed the name as requested by tour operators because they said 'we can't put anyone on a plane called Helios'."

    After much controversy, Helios was granted a name change in April.

    The airline also assures that its 200 staff would not be "left on the street".

    Ajet mainly operated flights to Britain and belongs to the Libra Holidays Group, the largest operator bringing tourists to Cyprus from the UK.

    Thrassou assured relatives that the move did not absolve the airline of its responsibility or any other legal enquiry.

    "Fears that the airline has no obligations and is not accountable for any possible responsibility are groundless," said Thrassou.

    Pilot error and mistakes made on the ground caused the Helios Boeing to crash, according to a Greek investigation report released on October 10.

    Cyprus weekly

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