Small Planet Airlines goes into insolvency

Lithuania-based Small Planet Airlines has followed its German and Polish subsidiaries in filing for insolvency.

Small Planet, based in Vilnius, claimed it recorded “a successful and profitable operational performance” this year.

It said it had been forced to declare insolvency to restructure free of creditors’ demands after the group’s subsidiary operations in Poland and Germany filed for insolvency last month.

In a statement, Small Planet described the filing as “a vital step to protect its business”.

Small Planet Airlines Germany filed for insolvency in September after months of delays and cancellations, but the airline has continued flying while its bosses seek investment.

The carrier has contracts with major tour operators in Germany including TUI, Thomas Cook, DER Touristik and FTI until the end of October.

However, German trade paper FVW reported this week that the carrier has no contracts for the winter season, with travel firms all securing capacity with other airlines.

The German outfit operates six aircraft and is 80% owned by the Small Planet Airlines Group.

Small Planet Airlines Poland, which operates 10 aircraft, has also filed for insolvency.

However, Kristijonas Kaikaris, chief executive of Small Planet Airlines Lithuania, insisted: “There is a major difference between the restructuring in the Polish and German companies and in Lithuania.

“Small Planet Airlines in Poland and Germany were loss making, whereas Small Planet Airlines Lithuania has continued to operate successfully.”

He said the Lithuania carrier would make an operating profit of €3.4 million this year.

Yet Kaikaris added: “The debts accumulated in Germany and Poland will be greater than the profit.”

He described “finding a new investor” as “vital” to restructuring the subsidiaries in Germany and Poland but said: “The Lithuanian company can survive without it.”

Kaikaris said the Lithuanian airline was nonetheless “having talks with potential investors since a financial injection would allow Small Planet Airlines Lithuania to go through the restructuring easier and faster”.

Small Planet Lithuania has eight aircraft, while the Small Planet Airlines Group reports operating 29 aircraft.

In March, Kaikaris had identified Germany as “our big market for growth” following the collapse of Air Berlin in October last year.

However, Air Berlin’s operation and fleet were divided up between easyJet, Lufthansa and, latterly, Ryanair through its purchase of Laudamotion – created from the former Air Berlin subsidiary Niki.

As Travel Weekly Europe reported last month, Halldor Sigurdarson remains in his role as Small Planet Airlines’ chief financial officer despite being found guilty of “thoroughly dishonest” behaviour by the High Court in London in 2014 – a finding upheld on appeal.

Sigurdarson and his co-defendants were found liable for £1.4 million following the collapse of UK tour operator Goldtrail Travel in 2010, a failure which left creditors owed £33 million.

In 2016, the UK Court of Appeal upheld the finding.

Sigurdarson has been involved in a string of failed companies, including Viking Airlines, Meridian Aviation and the XL Leisure Group which collapsed in 2008 owing £145 million.

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