Seemingly, the first airline to close its aircraft’s doors for the final time in 2020 will be Ernest Airlines, a low-cost carrier based in Italy. Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile (ENAC), the civil aviation authority of Italy, announced that Ernest Airlines’ operating license will be suspended if the carrier does not provide the required documents according to European Union’s Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008.
The deadline for the Italian airline is set for January 13, 2020, meaning the company has to hand over the required documents beforehand to ensure it can continue to fly. ENAC cited the decision to allow the airline to operate for two weeks in order to ensure connectivity “in consideration of the current holidays, as well as the Ukrainian New Year.”
Ernest Airlines operates a fleet of four Airbus A320 family aircraft, including one A319 jet, flying to select countries in Europe, but mostly focusing on connecting Italy with Eastern European countries, namely Albania, Russia and Ukraine. The carrier also indicates that in 2020 it plans to grow its fleet to eight aircraft, including one new A320neo aircraft.
“The license can be restored following the demonstration by Ernest S.p.A. to be in possession of the requirements prescribed by the current legislation on the matter and to obtain the revocation of the provision issued by ENAC,” states a press release by the airline.
The Italian civil aviation authority issued Ernest Airlines’ Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) on April 11, 2017.
“In the meantime, in compliance with the provisions of the Authority, sales of transport contracts have been blocked for all flights departing from January 13,” negatively impacting the cash flow of the company in an already low-booking period for all airlines based in Europe.
Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 indicates that a carrier’s AOC can be suspended if there are clear signs of financial trouble within an airline, including insolvency. However, the fact that Ernest Airlines still has time to provide the required documents could indicate that the company has not provided its audited accounts for FY2019 as indicated in the Regulation’s Article 8(4), which gives a premise for ENAC to suspend Ernest Airlines’ certificate.
“If the audited accounts are not communicated within one month, the operating licence may be revoked or suspended,” reads the Regulation.