It has been a week since Avianca Brazil filed for bankruptcy protection. Faced with the prospect of repossession of a large chunk of its fleet by its multiple big-name aircraft lessors, the airline has sought for backup from the country’s judicial system. Where does that leave its aircraft?  

Avianca Brazil filed for bankruptcy protection in the 1st São Paulo Commercial Court on December 10, 2018, officially confirming the news to local media the following day. The airline said it had been forced to proceed with the bankruptcy filing, as its leasing companies’ jet repossession petitions threatened its operations.

Three leasing companies, including BOC Aviation and Aircastle subsidiary Constitution Aircraft Leasing have sued the Brazilian carrier for the return of some 30% of the carrier’s fleet. According to Reuters, the bankruptcy filing indicated the three lawsuits totaled 14 planes.

A stock market disclosure by Aircastle confirmed it had moved to repossess 11 planes from the carrier after securing the aircrafts’ release by a court case in São Paulo earlier in the month. Meanwhile, BOC Aviation also won a preliminary injunction in a Brazilian court ordering the release of two of its planes, a report by ch-aviation.com on December 11th states.

Opting to clarify media reports, Avianca Brazil publicly stated on December 12th that the bankruptcy filing resulted from the “reluctance” of its lessors to reach an “amicable agreement” with the airline, a Facebook post by the carrier reads. It also said at the time that its operations would not be affected and that passengers “can have absolute peace of mind” when making reservations and purchasing tickets.

The Case

If granted, the bankruptcy filing would allow Avianca Brazil judicial and extrajudicial recovery procedures: meaning, it would be protected from creditor claims while a recovery plan is implemented, ch-aviation.com explains. But there is a catch – in order to get legal recovery, the company must present a plan to creditors on how it would pay off its debts.

A source with knowledge of the lawsuits, cited by Reuters, said Avianca Brazil owes its lessors some $100 million. Court records reportedly show the airline also has debts to suppliers, including airports, fuel and maintenance companies that amount to $125 million.

According to AIN Online, the carrier’s debts to airports (both public and private) total about $26 million alone; other creditors include hotels that host crew. However, the details of the lawsuits and of Avianca Brazil’s debts remain unclear as its bankruptcy case is under judicial seal.

The Aircraft

Avianca Brazil must have known the perfect storm was imminent when it filed for bankruptcy. The legal document itself was essentially a petition to hold onto its aircraft for some extra time as the company seeks funding to cover its overdue payments.

According to A21.mx, on December 13, a judge in the Brazilian court granted Avianca Brazil bankruptcy protection on its debts, allowing the carrier to keep at least 10 planes, currently still under dispute, for another 30 days. If the airline cannot reach a deal with its lessors during that time, it will lose the planes.

The São Paulo-based carrier’s fleet consists of 50 all-Airbus aircraft (comprising A318s, A319s, A320s and A330s), Planespotters.net data indicates.