Sunday 18 March 2018

Future of Dublin-based CityJet in the air as CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener departs

Cityjet chief executive Christine Ourmieres has left the company
Cityjet chief executive Christine Ourmieres has left the company
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The sudden departure of CityJet chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener has raised fresh questions about the Dublin-based airline’s future.

The airline said today that the Ms Ourmieres-Widener is leaving the airline with immediate effect.

She has headed the airline since 2010, when she was appointed to run the struggling loss-making carrier by then owner Air France-KLM. She had previously worked directly with Air France-KLM.

Her departure comes just a few months after CityJet’s deputy chief executive and chief financial officer Michael Collins also suddenly resigned.

Last year, Germany’s Intro Aviation finally sealed a deal to buy CityJet. It acquired it on a debt-free basis and it’s believed it paid next to nothing for the Irish airline, which had been founded in 1993 by current chairman Pat Byrne. Air France-KLM fully acquired CityJet in 2000.

Mr Byrne only rejoined CityJet as chairman this month, replacing Intro Aviation’s Peter Oncken, who remains on the board.

CityJet has racked up enormous losses in the past number of years. Intro Aviation said last year that it expected the Dublin airline, which is one of the biggest operators at London City Airport, to break even this year.

Ms Ourmieres-Widener and Mr Collins each took a 7.5pc stake in CityJet as part of the takeover of the airline by Intro Aviation.

It’s unclear whether the pair will retain those stakes.

The latest publicly-available accounts for CityJet, for 2013, show that it made a €23.1m loss that year. Ms Ourmieres-Widener told the Irish Independent last November that CityJet would be profitable by 2016.

Revenue at the carrier fell from €260m in 2012 to €220m in 2013.

CityJet sought 30 redundancies last month, with the cuts expected to save the airline between €1m and €1.25m a year.

One of CityJet’s busiest routes is between Dublin and London City Airport – a service it traditionally operated without any competition.

But last October, both Flybe and British Airways began operating services on the route, piling pressure on CityJet, which has an outdated fleet that urgently needs upgrading to make the airline more efficient.

The airline had been considering a fleet replacement for about a year, but recently completed a sale and leaseback of seven of its existing aircraft.

Statistics from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority show that in September last year, just under 18,000 people flew between Dublin and London City Airport, up 24pc compared to September 2013.

In November, the month after British Airways and FlyBe launched their services, 36,138 people flew between Dublin and London City Airport – a 132pc increase on November 2013.

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