Dublin-based airline Cityjet is expanding its fleet by up to seven Bombardier aircraft as part of a more than $100m (€85m) deal by its owner.
The deal will allow Cityjet to further expand its so-called "wet leasing" operation, which sees it provide its own aircraft and crew to operate regional routes on behalf of bigger European carriers such as SAS, Air France and Lufthansa's Brussels Airlines, the airline's founder and executive chairman Pat Byrne told the Sunday Independent.
The Irish operator is in talks with a number of major European carriers about operating a similar service. This wet lease market was a key part of Byrne's business proposition when he bought back Cityjet in 2016 from Germany's Intro Aviation. Byrne founded Cityjet in 2000 but sold it to Air France, which in turn sold it to Intro in 2013 before Byrne joined forces with aircraft leasing specialist Falko to reacquire it.
"We are talking to airlines all the time," said Byrne. "This whole concept of the big legacy carriers wet leasing their regional routes is becoming a reality."
The airline has also recently won a second contract with Air France, operating a number of Bombardier aircraft on behalf of Air France's new Paris Orly based subsidiary Hop.
Byrne said that the latest aircraft deal was a good illustration as to why the Cityjet model - whereby an aircraft leasing company owns an airline - was "a unique and perfect partnership."
In 2017 CityJet purchased SAS subsidiary Cimber. Cityjet owner Falko subsequently acquired 11 SAS-owned Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft previously used by Cimber from SAS for about $10m apiece. Up to four of these aircraft are to be sold on, with two already sold to Estonian carrier Nordica.
The remaining seven aircraft are expected to be leased by Falko to Cityjet, said Byrne. They are undergoing maintenance and C-checking - where the majority of the crafts' components are inspected - before being transferred to the Irish aircraft register to enter service with the Dublin airline.
Two of the aircraft will be used by Cityjet as part of its operation with SAS, in which Cityjet aircraft operate routes out of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki for the Scandinavian carrier. Cityjet had bought 22 of the Bombardier aircraft new and is wet leasing them to SAS as part of a deal to run regional services for the Scandinavian airline.