AirTanker, the company behind the RAF Voyager (UK Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft) programme has agreed in principle a ground-breaking A330 civil leasing deal with Thomas Cook Airlines.
Under the terms of the three-year agreement, Thomas Cook Airlines will lease a single Airbus A330-200 from the AirTanker/FSTA ‘surge fleet”, to support long haul routes as part of its UK flying programme.
Flying under the new Thomas Cook Airlines livery, the aircraft will be operated by AirTanker under its civil Air Operator’s Certificate from May 2015 in support of scheduled routes from Glasgow, Manchester and Stansted to Las Vegas, Cancun and Orlando.
Dave Mitchard, Managing Director, AirTanker Services, said that the deal represented ‘a first in civil aircraft leasing’.
He said: “AirTanker and Thomas Cook Airlines have reached provisional agreement on leasing terms against one of our A330-200 surge fleet aircraft with a full agreement expected shortly.
“This is a significant milestone and achievement for AirTanker and one which is representative of the significant progress that we are making across both our core service to the RAF and in our developing aircraft leasing capability.”
Signed in 2008, the FSTA contract between AirTanker and the Ministry of Defence tasks AirTanker, whose shareholders include Airbus Group, Rolls Royce, Thales, Cobham and Babcock, with the delivery, military conversion and subsequent operation and support for, 14 Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
This includes a core fleet of nine aircraft, flown in support of and by the RAF and a further five – the surge fleet - which are available to AirTanker to lease to the civil market.
Completing its core RAF fleet with the delivery of the ninth Voyager aircraft last month [May], all subsequent aircraft delivered as part of the programme will sit within the surge fleet, with the final aircraft scheduled for delivery by Q4 2016.
In its civil specification, the aircraft will be delivered from Airbus and set-up by AirTanker to an all economy Thomas Cook Airline 323 seat configuration.
As part of the ‘wet leasing’ agreement six Thomas Cook Airlines Captains and four First Officers, will be seconded to AirTanker, flying alongside AirTanker’s own civilian pilots. The cabin service will be performed by a cabin crew provided by Thomas Cook Airlines. Thomas Cook will also provide line maintenance with base maintenance delivered by AirTanker.
Christoph Debus, Chairman, Thomas Cook Group Airlines said: “Over the last few months we’ve announced new routes to the Caribbean and more recently a scheduled service to New York and Miami from Manchester alongside new long haul routes to the US from Belfast, Glasgow and Stansted.
“This ground-breaking deal with AirTanker, which may be extended in the future, will allow us to bring a brand new A330 to serve our new routes alongside our refurbished long haul fleet and illustrates the transformation of our airline as we look to bring a new level of reliability and comfort to our customers.”
Thomas Cook Airlines seconded flight crew will also support AirTanker’s civil/charter service in support of the Falklands air-bridge. This is operated by AirTanker on the Civil Aircraft Register under an independent Air Operators Certificate, with its own pilots and civilian cabin crew.
The deal with Thomas Cook Airlines, is agreed directly between AirTanker and Thomas Cook for AirTanker-owned aircraft and sits outside that already in place with the MOD. No RAF crew will be employed in its delivery.
Flights will be bookable as part of the Thomas Cook package holiday programme through Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel high street stores or online at www.thomascook.com . Flight-only, can be booked through www.thomascookairlines.com .