With new investors backing it up, Israeli airline Israir is keenly looking ahead to better times. New owners Rami Levy and Shalom Haim picked up a controlling stake in the carrier for some $48.7 million, and anticipate doubling their money, eventually. In a bid to make inroads on this ambition, CEO Uri Sirkis says that the current fleet of seven planes will be swapped out entirely for seven Airbus A220s.
Another all-A220 operator?
The Airbus A220 has proven to be a popular plane, racking up 630 orders from 22 airlines and lessors. While operators including Delta and Air Canada are enjoying their new planes, no airline is quite so invested as European airline airBaltic.
Since the onset of COVID, airBaltic has accelerated the retirement of its remaining Boeing 737s and has now become the world’s first airbus A220-only airline. It’s a fact that CEO Martin Gauss is incredibly proud of, even retraining on the new type to understand the aircraft inside out.
But could airBaltic soon be joined by another airline as an all-A220 operator? According to Israir CEO Uri Sirkis, it’s a definite possibility. Speaking to Israeli publication Globes, the CEO said,
“At the same time as we updated the lease contracts … we have formulated an equipment plan: the seven Israir planes will be replaced by seven Airbus 220s.”
Sirkis didn’t specify which variant of the A220 Israir would like to fly, but the company previously showed some interest in the larger A220-300. The airline currently flies four A320-200 and three ATR 72, so the A220-300 would be a good middle ground between these two types.
The A220 would be an excellent fit for Israir, given its key focus of flying short to medium-haul routes to seasonal and VFR destinations. The aircraft has already been pegged as the perfect post-pandemic plane and could well be a great choice for the future of the Israeli airline.
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Israir’s new owners have big plans for the airline
BGI Investments is the new owner of Israir, having paid $48.7 million for a 75% stake in the company. The investment company is the vehicle operated by two key people – Rami Levy and Shalom Haim. Haim acquired 51% and Levy 24%, with the remaining 25% of Israir left in the hands of the bondholders.
Levi has, so far, been outspoken about his ambitions for the airline. A household name in Israel, thanks to the food chain that bears his name, he has spoken of a desire to make Israir the national company of the State of Israel.” However, his partner, and controlling shareholder, is less forthcoming.
In an interview with Globes, Haim said that he knew now was a tricky time to invest in an airline company, but remained positive that people would return to flying soon. He commented,
“People will not stop flying. Obviously buying a company at such a time has a greater risk, but we made a decision to buy a company we think is good, with excellent management and dedicated employees, which has proven itself in crisis. The desire to win at any cost attracted us to the company.”
The new owners of Israir anticipate a 40% recovery this year, and believe that by 2022, the airline will reach the operational levels of 2019. Haim admits that the investors paid dearly to acquire the airline, but says that they believe, in time, it will double in value.