TUS Airways is coming back, and it has a new direction. Having struggled amid fierce competition in the past, the airline will launch with a hybrid operating model, flying both low-cost and full-service operations as routes and demand dictate. The relaunch is being supported by funding from El Al stakeholder Global Knafaim.
Israeli finance to help with the TUS relaunch
Cypriot airline TUS Airways has not flown since the summer of 2019. Despite rumors it could be ceasing operations, the airline has always maintained it would come back bigger and better than ever. Now, it seems that this ambition is set to become a reality.
Announced this week, TUS Airways will relaunch in the coming weeks with a new and improved business model, and a new CEO. It intends to operate a hybrid strategy, flying both low-cost and full-service operations, according to the route and demand. The airline will fly to destinations in Europe and across the Mediterranean, as well as longer haul services to Asia and South America.
Leading the relaunch is new CEO Michael Weinstein. Weinstein was the original founder and CEO of TUS in 2015, and is now back to rebuild the airline.
TUS has already begun its revamp, with the acquisition of two A320 family jets. These are configured in all all-economy layout with 180 seats onboard. In addition to these, the airline says it is planning to equip itself with a widebody A330 for longer haul flights in the future.
Notable for this relaunch is the support the company has gained from Israel’s Global Knafaim Company. The Israeli firm will take a stake of 49.9% of TUS Airways, with the rest of the shares owned by American Cypriot businessman Mr. Kenneth M. Woolley. Knafaim’s investment is considered to be in the region of $5 million.
Knafaim Holdings, the parent company of Global Knafaim, is a well-known aviation financier, having a significant share in El Al, the Israeli flag carrier. Mr Wooley is a long-time aviation executive, being the owner of Dynamic Aviation – now Eastern Airlines – a co-owner of Swift Air, and the owner of KMW Leasing, an aircraft leasing firm.
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Coming back better
TUS was originally founded in June 2015 and began operations on Valentine’s Day the following year. It was the first Cypriot airline to be founded following the demise of Cyprus Airways in 2015.
The airline’s first flights utilized a Saab 340B, flying from Larnaca in Cyprus to points in Israel. Soon after, it added a Saab 2000 to increase its carrying capacity. A year later, it began flying its first jets, adding the Fokker 100 to the fleet. It later added five Fokker 70s, and at its peak, had a fleet of nine aircraft.
However, times were not kind to the Cypriot airline. Just months after it launched, Cobalt Air rose to become a strong and ambitious competitor. A year later, Russia’s S7 Airlines launched its own Cyprus-based carrier called Charlie Air, later renamed Cyprus Airways. Also squeezing the hopes of TUS were the ever-present behemoths of low-cost European travel, Wizz Air and Ryanair.
For a local carrier, year-round operations from Cyprus are tough. Lucrative summers are contrasted with a dearth of demand during the winter. With massive competition in the summer and barely any passengers in the winter, TUS Airways didn’t even make it onto the list of the top 15 largest airlines in Cyprus by 2019.
In 2019, rumors flew that TUS had ceased operating, but former CEO Andrew Pyne vehemently denied that was the case. Speaking to Cyprus Mail, he said,
“We are planning to rebrand by summer 2020. We are also planning to acquire bigger and more modern aircraft to develop our fleet.”
Amid the COVID crisis, that 2020 rebrand and relaunch never happened. But the airline has remained positive that it can and would return. In a statement last May, the airline said that, contrary to some media reports, it had not ceased operating and that,
“It has simply suspended operations pending the end of the COVID-19 emergency similar to many other airlines.”
Now, with Israeli money behind it, TUS is looking to make a comeback. Ch-aviation shows it already has one A320-200 leased into its fleet, with a second on the way. With a new business model and high hopes for the future, TUS Airways will be an interesting player to watch.