Etihad looks to an agreement to take on AirBridgeCargo aircraft and staff under a new entity

The pair are told to be looking at ways to transfer the 747 fleets to Etihad’s AOC and set up a new entity for the aircraft, with the remaining crew and staff transferred to Abu Dhabi and European operations relaunched.

AirBridgeCargo has a fleet of 16 747s, 10 of which are leased by six leasing companies. A source revealed the plan was to buy all the aircraft on financial leases.

The agreement could be attractive to lessors if it is lawful. Lessors have been trying to reclaim their aircraft, which are parked in Moscow. However, in various filings, they have admitted they are unlikely to be able to recoup the aircraft as Moscow passed a law forcing them to stay in Russia.

BOC Aviation is suing AirBridgeCargo

AerCap filed a case in the UK last month requesting damages from Volga-Dnepr Group for breach of contract and legal fees of $339m, for eight aircraft, and in the US courts, BOC Aviation is suing AirBridgeCargo, but both parties asked the judge for an extension on 9 June, saying discussions were continuing.

AirBridgeCargo

“Plaintiff, BOC Aviation, and AirBridge are involved in ongoing talks to reach an amicable resolution of this lawsuit. We expect those discussions, as well as the memorialization and execution of any agreement reached as a result, to extend beyond 21 June 2022. To avoid wasting the time and resources of both the parties and the court, the parties together and respectfully ask that the deadline for AirBridge to answer the complaint be adjourned from 10 June to 11 July and that the status conference is adjourned to a convenient date thereafter.” It was the third extension request and was granted.

A source informed the agreement with Etihad would be discussed at the carrier’s board meeting next week and that ABC staff were already in Abu Dhabi.

The new Etihad unit would, effectively, be the exact AirBridgeCargo, with deals conducted by a new entity made up of Volga-Dnepr Group’s former European GSA, AirFreight Logistics, a Luxembourg-registered company.

Sources said, however, that the agreement was sensitive and Etihad would be undertaking considerable due diligence to ensure no sanctions are broken. One source close to the company told ABC founder Alexei Isaikin’s placement last week on the UK sanctions list could hamper the process, adding: “Etihad will not take any political risk, but it wants to take the aircraft onto its AOC.”

Another source stated: “Etihad has deep pockets, and wouldn‘t attempt this if there was no possibility to earn, or if it wasn‘t legal.”

Relations between the UAE and Russia

Relations between the UAE and Russia are delicate, with the Middle Eastern country trying to appear neutral over Ukraine. It abstained from an initial UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion but later voted for it, fearful of upsetting the US.

The UAE, which is offering visas to non-sanctioned Russians, has seen a surge in arrivals from Russia in the past three months, while many companies with staff in Russia are relocating them to the UAE. Many of AirBridgeCargo’s Russia-based employees are now thought to be in the UAE.

One source stated the agreement would “save the company”, while another said to The Loadstar in March that ABC was looking at any legal ways to continue to work.

“We are an extremely creative company, but anything we do has to be clean. It cannot be dirty, it must be legal. We have lots of working groups to try to find solutions and we are in discussions with lessors. But it’s going to take a while to figure out what we can do.”

AirBridgeCargo

Etihad answered to The Loadstar’s questions this morning: “In the ordinary course of business, we continuously evaluate potential business opportunities.

“Due to the confidential nature of any such evaluations, we hope for your understanding that we can’t ensure or comment on your questions.” Etihad now operates five 777 freighters, but in line with numerous freighter operators has expressed concern over the future lack of nose-loading 747s now production has ended.

An agreement that saw it take on ABC’s fleet would be something of a coup for the airline, although a revenue-sharing deal is expected – if legally likely.

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