Avion Express enters the cargo transportation market

The Lithuanian ACMI carrier switches its current focus from passengers to freight

Avion Express Two members of Avia Solution Group -- Avion Express and SmartLynx Airlines -- specialising in ACMI aircraft lease services and charters have a combined fleet of 45 A320 family passenger aircraft (Avion Express)

In an effort to limit the damage to its massive wet-lease business, Lithuania’s Avia Solutions Group is now offering Avion Express, its aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) operator, for all-cargo flights using passenger aircraft.

Originally established as a cargo and passenger airline back in 2005 and later turned into a passenger ACMI services provider, the Vilnius-based Avion Express has announced its return to the dedicated airfreight market.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to shut down air travel, with commercial passenger flights increasingly being suspended around the world, cargo-carrying services remain in high demand. Consequently, passenger aircraft are being turned into cargo-only planes to carry medical supplies, and much-needed equipment of various kinds, including industrial parts and high-demand consumer goods.

“The transportation doesn’t stop with passenger flights being suspended. While the very last repatriation flights are still taking place, people and organisations around the world are in great need of supplies, food, medical equipment… we are now adapting our operations in accordance with these market requirements,” says Darius Kajokas, chief executive of Avion Express. “Although we are currently mostly focusing on the transportation of humanitarian aid and medical equipment in the fight against COVID-19, other cargo requests are also very welcomed and [are being] thoroughly considered,” he adds.

With its fleet of 22 Airbus A320-family aircraft currently based in central and eastern Europe, Avion Express is ready to offer freight carrying capabilities of up to 17 tonnes of cargo on the A320s and up to 24 tonnes on the A321s, using both the belly cargo compartments and also the passenger cabins.

With FAA approval for its subsidiary airline Avion Express Malta in place, the company can also offer cargo transportation services to and from the USA.

Another recently announced air cargo development for Avia Solutions Group (ASG) is its decision to proceed with the acquisition of Iceland’s Bluebird Nordic freight airline. In late January 2020, ASG signed an agreement with BB Holding EHF for the full acquisition of Bluebird Nordic. On the 31st of March 2020, following the completion of all prerequisites and receipt of relevant clearances from competition authorities, the transaction was finalised.

Gediminas Ziemelis, chairman of the board of directors at Avia Solutions Group, says: “As the largest passenger ACMI group in eastern Europe and considering the current changes in the aviation sector – which come with a growing demand not only for narrow-body but now also for wide-body cargo services – we are glad to be adding Bluebird Nordic’s portfolio to our group’s operations.”

Providing services to other airlines, Bluebird Nordic utilises a fleet of six mature aircraft consisting of one Boeing 737-300SF and five Boeing 737-400SFs. It also operates scheduled as well as charter flights under its own brand and offers cargo export and import services to and from Iceland.

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