US experience coming to Europe ACMI market

Bernie Baldwin

Mesa Air Group, based in Arizona, USA, is planning to bring its knowledge of flying on behalf of airline partners to Europe under an agreement with London-based Gramercy Associates.

The pair plan to develop a Europe-based joint venture, of which Mesa will own 49%, which will apply for a new Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in the European Union using CRJ900 aircraft, which are now supported by MHI RJ Aviation. The JV’s goal is to introduce Capacity Purchase Agreement or ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance) services in passenger or cargo operations in Europe, where it will compete with operators such as CityJet, Xfly and Danish Air Transport.

“We are very excited at the potential to expand our regional business overseas,” declares Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa’s chairman and chief executive officer, who has previous experience in Europe from his days as chief executive officer of Virgin Express in the early 1990s.

Gramercy Associates is led by Tony Davis, who was previously CEO of Tiger Airways in Singapore and bmibaby in the UK. In mid-March, Davis spoke to CONNECT Unplugged and explained that, while he could not elaborate on details, the partners were in the deep discussion stage and he is “optimistic and excited about the path the talks were taking.”

This is not the first attempt to bring US experience into the CPA/ACMI market in Europe. In 2005, ExpressJet Europe was set up with a similar goal by Jochen Schnadt, now vice-president, aviation business management, Dubai Airports.

While Schnadt established his company under a different name, investment from ExpressJet Airlines – then a US regional brand of some note – led to the US company’s brand being used as it was hoped that it would provide added leverage. Four former chief executives from European regional airlines were also involved at board level. However, the venture did not succeed in gaining the traction required.

Informed of the Mesa–Gramercy JV, Schnadt told CONNECT Unplugged that he still believes that the European market needs an effective smaller-gauge solution, “possibly more than ever”.

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