Cityjet is shifting gear from scheduled services to wet leasing

New departure will see airline providing craft and crew to fly routes for other airlines

You have to go back 10 years to the last time that Cityjet made a profit. In the 12 months ended March 31st, 2007, the regional carrier earned a surplus of almost €23.5 million before tax. It lost €16.22 million the following year and €64 million in the 12 months ended March 31st, 2009.

Its worst year was 2012. The airline lost almost €209 million mainly because it had to write €175 million off the value of its subsidiary, Belgian regional carrier VLM Airlines, which it bought in 2008, and a further €7 million off other assets. Its operations shed €21.3 million.

Through much of this period, it continued to predict that it would make a profit. In late 2012, Christine Ourmières, the chief executive appointed to it by Air France KLM, was hopeful that it would do so in 2013, although she was cautious.

Several owners

That was well founded as the airline lost €38.6 million in 2013. Air France later sold it to German company Intro Aviaion. In 2014, it said Cityjet would make a profit the following year. It went on to lose €10 million.

Cityjet has passed through the hands of several owners in its career, not all of whom made great decisions. It has since dropped VLM which was wound up last year.

Its founder, Pat Byrne, has since returned to the business, both as an investor and executive chairman. The airline lost €30 million last year, figures published this week show, largely down to the fact that it bought two rivals and is renewing its fleet. Byrne says it will make a profit "to write home about" in 2019.

The key to Byrne’s optimism is Cityjet’s new direction. It is shifting focus from scheduled services to wet leasing, that is providing craft and crew to fly routes for other airlines. There is growing demand for that service and Cityjet is eyeing a new contract to add to those it already has with SAS and others. Time will tell if this approach works the oracle and returns the airline to the black.