August 09, 2012
Dutch aviation investor Panta Holdings is buying German regional carrier OLT Express. Panta is taking over all shares held by Polish investor Amber Gold, which ran into financial difficulties and stopped funding its airline subsidiaries this month. OLT Express Poland was forced to shut down last week.
Panta Holdings also is the owner of Denim Air, a specialist in wet-lease services that operates a fleet of Fokker 50s and one Fokker 100. It is the parent of Rekkof, the company that has unsuccessfully tried to start production of a modernized version of the Fokker 100 since 2003. Panta Holdings was the owner of VLM Airlines, but sold that entity to Air France-KLM. Mass Lease, specializing in Fokker 100 leasing, is another group subsidiary.
The aircraft type provided the key link for Panta’s interest in OLT Express. The German carrier also operates two Fokker 100s and will receive another eight when it integrates fellow regional carrier Contact Air next month. The larger OLT Express will operate a fleet of 10 F100s, four Saab 2000s and one Saab 340.
OLT Managing Director Joachim Klein tells Aviation Week that the airline will continue with its previously defined strategy. It plans to enter secondary routes that major carriers, such as Air Berlin and Lufthansa, have abandoned because they were uneconomical. A combination of low ownership and labor costs and a more efficient non-hub operation is expected to ensure an operating profit for the airline next year. However, that will be a massive challenge because six Contact Air Fokker 100s are currently operated on wet-lease for Lufthansa. That contract will expire by the end of October and will not be extended. OLT plans to operate the aircraft in its own network from November. Two F100s are currently flying for Swiss International Air Lines, and Klein says negotiations are under way to continue that program.