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Irish aviation giant snaps up Skytrans, plans major expansion

written by Jake Nelson | January 24, 2024

A Skytrans Cessna 208B Grand Caravan. (Image: Skytrans)

Queensland regional carrier Skytrans has been bought by Ireland-based aviation firm Avia Solutions Group, which has signalled plans to expand it into wet-leasing and jet operations.

Avia is a major player in the international ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance) market, and currently holds 11 air operator certificates (AOCs) in different countries. Its purchase of Skytrans is expected to complete in March, subject to “fulfillment of specific transaction conditions”.

Speaking to Australian Aviation, Skytrans CEO Alan Milne confirmed that the airline’s current network and schedule will continue with “business as usual”.

“ASG is the world’s largest ACMI company, and will provide Skytrans the opportunity for expansion of our operations, fleet and geographic reach, while strengthening our position in the Australian market,” he said.

“ASG currently operates a fleet of 199 jet aircraft and is keen to explore the potential opportunities in Australia.”

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Under Skytrans’ AOC, Avia will be able to operate both passenger and cargo flights in Australia, bolstering its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Avia is looking to buy or establish seven additional airlines by the end of the year, with Brazil, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, and Türkiye all on its radar.

Its current portfolio includes European carriers SmartLynx Airlines, Avion Express, AirExplore, KlasJet, and Magma Aviation, along with MRO services provider FL Technics and independent pilot training organisation BAA Training.

Jonas Janukenas, CEO of Avia Solutions Group, says the Skytrans acquisition is part of the company’s strategic ambition to expand its footprint in areas with “opposite seasonality” to Europe.

“Australia is a new addition to our group’s global footprint, where we see significant potential and growth opportunities, enabling us to offer ACMI services,” he said.

Skytrans, based in Cairns, operates regular passenger transport and charter services across regional Queensland with a fleet of 13 De Havilland Dash 8 and Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft.

It was briefly placed into administration in early 2015, before being revived months later after it was bought out by Peter Collings’ West Wing Aviation and former NRL player Johnathan Thurston.

The carrier in October stepped up its services from Cairns to the Cape York town of Bamaga after Rex dropped the route, with Milne indicating Skytrans would be interested in filling any other gaps that may arise in the region in future.

“We’re a Far North Queensland-based airline, although we do have bases in Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Townsville as well, and then of course on Horn Island,” he told Australian Aviation at the time.

“We cover a lot of Queensland territory, and if there’s a need for those communities to be serviced, then we’ll be looking at doing that, definitely.”

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