Silverjet, the business airline that was forced to ground its planes last month when it ran out of cash, looks like it might be back from the brink. Irish investment vehicle Kingplace, which is backed by Swiss group Heritage, said it had agreed a deal with administrators Begbies Traynor to buy the seemingly defunct airline – so assuming the deal gets the thumbs-up from regulators, Silverjet’s three planes could apparently be back in the air ‘in a matter of weeks’.
The surprise deal is good news all round – both for Silverjet staff, who presumably thought a fortnight ago that they were about to join the ranks of the unemployed, and for those customers who bought tickets before the airline went south. Heritage chairman Ian Ilsley said his firm would ‘take on all of the existing staff [and] honour Silverjet’s existing customers’ tickets’ if the negotiations are successful. And judging by the number of rivals lining up to woo their custom – notably BA and Virgin – this news has arrived not a moment too soon.
So it’s no wonder Silverjet CEO Lawrence Hunt was cock-a-hoop today. ‘I am personally delighted that we now have the necessary backing from a long term investor to relaunch Silverjet,’ he beamed. ‘We have received fantastic support from our staff, customers and partners in helping us put this deal together.’ He’s now pledging to get the New York and Dubai services back off the tarmac as rapidly as possible.
Then again, perhaps they shouldn’t be celebrating just yet. After all, it’s not the first time that Silverjet has trumpeted a new deal with a deep-pocketed financial backer: last month it claimed to have reached an agreement with UAE-based Viceroy Holdings, but the promised funding mysteriously failed to materialise – forcing Silverjet to call in the administrators as the cash ran out. So until the Kingplace money is actually in the bank – and they’ve only got a week to tie up the deal – perhaps it’s too early to start counting any chickens.
And that’s not to mention the more fundamental problem: at a time when the oil price is rocketing towards $150/ barrel, and every major carrier in the world is struggling to keep its head above water, is it even possible to run a business-class-only airline as a profitable concern..?