UK-based startup ACMI carrier Ascend Airways has received its first aircraft and is now finalizing its plans to begin services during Spring 2024. The carrier is one of the latest additions to Avia Solutions Group’s (ASG) expanding portfolio of ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, insurance) specialist airlines.
Ascend Airways is due to operate two Boeing 737s in the first year of operations. Its two aircraft will be based at London-Gatwick Airport (LGW) and London-Southend Airport (SEN).
The carrier’s first aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 registered G-HODL, is currently undergoing entry-into-service checks. It was formerly operated by fellow ASG carrier KlasJet, for which it operated as LY-BUS. The aircraft, now just over 12 years old, began life in December 2011 with Pegasus Airlines in Turkey, as TC-AVP. The aircraft has 189 seats in a single-class configuration and features the updated Boeing Sky interior.
The airline’s second aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 the exact provenance of which is yet to be revealed, is a 2022-build airframe and will also seat 189 passengers.
Headed up by former Titan Airways CEO Alastair Willson, Ascend Airways was launched to provide additional capacity in the European ACMI market, an area in which ASG has expanded hugely in recent years. By establishing a new charter carrier in the UK, ASG hopes to offer additional capacity to European scheduled and charter airlines that regularly use ACMI operators during the peak travel seasons.
To expedite the formation of its new UK-based ACMI operation and to acquire a UK Air Operators Certificate, ASG acquired UK-based air charter business Synergy Aviation in July 2023. Synergy is a niche air charter business based at Fairoaks Airport in Hampshire, UK. Alongside its existing air charter, aircraft management, and consultancy services, the company also offers several turboprop and business jets in the private charter market.
Though initially focusing on the ACMI contract flying business, Ascend Airways will also offer its aircraft for VIP and ad hoc charter flights. According to the carrier’s website, Ascend Airways intends to “add enhanced cabin solutions to the aircraft and offer business class and VIP service offerings in the future. The business is committed to sustainable aviation and aligned with the UK JetZero strategy. As well as serving the UK market, Ascend Airways shall operate its worldwide leverage of the UK’s trade agreements to provide services to customers overseas.”
The new airline also claims it can “provide a buy-on-board service, standard economy class catering or arrange a bespoke, first-class catering and cabin service with an open bar, depending on customer objectives and requirements. We can also brand our aircraft and interiors to produce the ‘wow!’ factor for your guests.”
With its management team already in post and recruitment for both pilots and cabin crew already well underway, Ascend Airways is progressing quickly towards its first flight in Spring 2024.
In addition to Ascend Airways, the ASG group of airlines includes Avion Express Lithuania, Avion Express Malta, SmartLynx Estonia, SmartLynx Latvia, SmartLynx Malta, BBN Airlines Indonesia, AirExplore of Slovakia, and Lithuanian-based KlasJet. ASG also owns dedicated cargo airlines Bluebird Nordic and Magma Aviation.
With eleven AOCs already in hand globally, ASG aims to establish and acquire seven additional airlines across various countries, including Brazil, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Turkey by the close of 2024.
On January 23, 2024, ASG also announced its proposed acquisition of regional operator Skytrans Airlines in Australia, providing the Irish-based company with its first Air Operators Certificate in Australia.