Rumania’s biggest airline, BlueAir, has suspended all operations until September 12 as it tries to sort out financial issues with the Rumanian government and regulators. The suspension of flights has caused chaos at Henri Coanda Airport in Bucharest after thousands of passengers were stranded. BlueAir suspends flights amidst spat over seized accounts.
BlueAir is a small airline, founded in 2004 and operates a Boeing fleet of just fourteen aircraft. The newest type is a MAX 8, of which the first was delivered in April 2021. It currently has five of them on lease from Air Lease Corporation (ALC), with a sixth prepared for delivery soon and four more to follow. The carrier has also six 737-800s, one -700, and two -500s. All aircraft have been grounded. BlueAir used to be partly owned by German Airways-owner Zeitfracht Gruppe, but this sold its ten percent stake after just one year in 2020 to majority-owner Teodor Christian Rada and his company Airline Invest.
BlueAir airline blames the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Forest for blocking its bank accounts after it failed to pay a fine that was imposed this summer by Rumania’s consumer watchdog, the National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC). Following complaints from customers, the authority ruled in July that BlueAir had canceled more than 11.000 flights between April 2021 and April 2022 without good reason and without compensating passengers that had paid for their flights. ANPC imposed a fine of €2 million on BlueAir that was due within ten days after the ruling, so until early August.
When BlueAir failed to comply with the conditions of the fine this week, the Ministry of Environment stepped in and blocked the airline’s accounts. The Minister of Environment told Rumanian media that this should be no reason for the airline to suspend services now, but BlueAir said on Tuesday that it is unable to pay suppliers and had no other option but to stop flying.
“Due to an unforeseen situation consisting in the seizure of all the accounts of BlueAir by the Ministry of Environment for non-payment of a fine, Blueair aviation airline is obliged, being unable to pay any supplier, to stop all flights scheduled to leave Romania, respectively from Bucharest Otopeni, Bacau, Cluj Napoca and Iasi until Monday, September 12, 2022. All planned flights from outside Romania to any airport in Romania, today, September 6, 2022, will be operated according to the published schedule”, the airline said in a statement that is published in Rumanian media.
A BlueAir Boeing 737-800 in blue skies on its way to Amsterdam Schiphol. (Richard Schuurman)
BlueAir accuses the president of ANPC of warning customers not to fly with the airline, as it is qualified as unreliable. Indeed, the authority warned consumers of being vigilant when booking with airlines that have recently canceled flights without respecting consumers’ rights. ANPC not just referred to BlueAir, but also Wizz Air and Ryanair which had recently canceled flights to and out of the country. ANPC warned that it will closely monitor how they respond to consumer’s rights.
Comments like these have significantly hurt the confidence of consumers in BlueAir, the airline says today. It claims to have lost some €5 million in ticket revenues, while according to media reports, suppliers have become wary of doing business with BlueAir and want to be paid in advance. Moreover, the airline claims to have been in discussion with two potential investors about joining the company, but these talks are now on hold.
In a statement, BlueAir says: “The irresponsible statements and actions of a representative of the Romanian State, as well as the untimely decision to block all the bank accounts of the company, have brought Blue Air in the undesirable situation of reducing its operations for the next period, in order to facilitate the completion of the impact analysis on the part of investors and of obtaining the necessary authorizations for discussions with investors”.
It’s not the first time BlueAir has been fined. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) prosecuted the airline for six offenses of the Covid Enforcement Regulations, including the failure of making sure that passengers arrived in the UK with a valid Covid test with a passenger locator form. During a court hearing in Uxbridge in February, the airline pleaded guilty and was fined £40.000.
If the airline will solve its problems until September 12 and resume operations, remains to be seen.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.