Some 13,000 stranded after French airline collapses: Official

Aigle Azur's collapse left some 19,000 passengers stranded, but buyers could be on the horizon.

    Tens of thousands of passengers have been left stranded since the airline went into receivership and cancelled all flights [Stringer/AFP]
    Tens of thousands of passengers have been left stranded since the airline went into receivership and cancelled all flights [Stringer/AFP]

    Some 13,000 passengers, mainly booked on flights to and from Algeria, are still stranded after France's second-largest airline Aigle Azur went into receivership, a senior French official said on Monday, adding that several potential buyers had been identified.

    The airline, which employs almost 1,200 staff, filed for bankruptcy and suspended all flights last week after losses which prompted a shareholder coup that overthrew the chief executive. 

    "Out of 19,000 passengers who found themselves in difficulty at the peak of the crisis, there are still 13,000" who have yet to be repatriated, the secretary of state for transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told the Le Parisien daily.

    He said these included 11,000 passengers booked on flights into and out of Algeria, 600 on Mali flights as well as other destinations ranging from Russia to Lebanon.

    Air France chartered two special flights on Saturday and again on Sunday to help passengers booked on Algeria flights, which flew out only one-quarter full but were full upon return.

    "The hardest moment of the crisis will be over before the end of the week. At least half the passengers [affected] will have been repatriated," Djebbari said.

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    The airline transported some 1.9 million passengers last year, with destinations in Algeria making up half of its operations that brought in 300 million euros ($329m) inrevenue.

    He said the former chief executive of Air France's subsidiary Hop!, Lionel Guerin, was among the interested parties, backed by a team of aviation professionals with financial support. 

    He added that Air France itself also appeared to be making an offer.

    "This shows there is still an interest in Agile Azur," he added. Neither party has so far publicly confirmed an interest, with Air France declining to comment on an "evolving" situation.

    According to union officials, Air France could be interested in the medium-haul routes to Algeria and the Dubreuil group, the majority shareholder in Air Caaibes, the long haul routes to destinations such as Brazil and Mali.

    The largest shareholder in Aigle Azur is the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, with a 49-percent stake. 

    David Neeleman, an American airline entrepreneur whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32 percent and French businessman Gerard Houa owns 19 percent.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency