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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Airline grounded ahead of takeoff
Now plane
Now was grounded before it could take to the skies
A new no-frills airline has gone into receivership before any of its flights have even taken off.

Now Airlines said it had experienced problems with funding and it had delayed the launch of its services "until further notice".

The company officially launched in March 2003 aiming to challenge other low-cost airlines such as Easyjet.

Budget airlines have suffered a number of problems recently as competition in European routes has intensified.

In a statement on its website, Now said: "We obviously regret the measures taken, particularly in respect of the tremendous support from staff, partners and suppliers, and all the good efforts for Now to happen.

"However, we have an excellent team behind us and we hope that as a result of our efforts a strong airline will emerge for our passengers, staff and shareholders alike."

Wound up

As well as deferring its launch, the group said it was also considering a restructuring plan.

Meanwhile, it added it had gone into receivership and anyone wanting to contact the airline should contact the Official Receiver in St Albans.

A spokesman for Now said the group had intended to fly to various European destinations from Luton Airport.

There are still people wanting to take the place of those that go bust. But there are probably too many low-cost airlines in Europe at the moment
Tim Coombs, Aviation Economics

The company, owned by Luton-based Sunjet Airlines, was backed by a Luxembourg-based group of investors who are part of the European Airline Association.

The spokesman for Now added that the group had put around 10m into the company.

A spokesman for the Official Receiver confirmed that the company went into compulsory liquidation last month.

He added that the High Court in Manchester issued a winding up order against Now after being petitioned by an alleged creditor of the company.

The spokesman declined to reveal how much Now owed, but did add that Now's assets would be used to pay creditors.

'Bloodbath'

Budget flights have recently been squeezed by a price war between carriers and rising fuel costs.

Rising competition has led analysts to predict that many smaller airlines will be pushed out of the market, leaving it open to a few big players.

In March, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary predicted a "bloodbath" this year, with smaller airlines going to the wall in the "mother and father of all fare wars".

And there are signs that his predications are coming true.

Birmingham-based Duo went into receivership owing nearly 20m last month, while newcomer Jetgreen suspended its operations after just one week of trading.

"There are still people wanting to take the place of those that go bust. But there are probably too many low-cost airlines in Europe at the moment," says Tim Coombs, managing director of London-based analysts Aviation Economics.

Even the big names are not finding times easy.

Last week, Ryanair blamed competition, the Iraq war, a weaker pound, higher oil prices and the threat of terrorist attacks for its first fall in net profits since it floated.

And on Monday, Easyjet's share price plunged after it revealed its profits may only just beat last year's 52m. The airline said "unprofitable and unrealistic" pricing in the industry and rising fuel prices were cutting into its profits.


SEE ALSO:
Fuel worries hit Easyjet shares
07 Jun 04  |  Business
Stormy profits ride for Ryanair
01 Jun 04  |  Business
Air India enters no-frills market
31 May 04  |  Business
Collapsed airline axes 260 jobs
04 May 04  |  West Midlands


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