British low-cost carrier easyJet is well known as an all-Airbus airline. But, for a short while a couple of years ago, the airline also operated four British Aerospace 146 aircraft. Three arrived with the airline in January 2018, and another in May. By November that year, they were no more. Why did easyJet have these baby quadjets, and where did they go?
Plugging a gap
Back in 2017, Air Berlin was having a tough time. Two years before, it had become the only European airline to record an operating loss, and had continued on that trend over the subsequent quarters. Despite Etihad’s injections of cash and support, and a year of trying to reinvent itself as the ‘new Air Berlin’, its problems ran too deep to be solved.
In April 2017, the company recorded a €781 million ($956 million) loss. Etihad decided against throwing good money after bad, and stopped financing the failing carrier. This left it with no choice but to declare bankruptcy. It entered insolvency proceedings on August 15th that year, leaving thousands of employees out of a job.
Lufthansa took over 81 of its aircraft and 3,000 employees. But for Air Berlin, the party was over, and its last flight touched down on October 15th, 2017.
A couple of weeks later, British company easyJet announced it would be absorbing 1,000 of the bankrupt carrier’s employees and leasing 25 of its Airbus A320 aircraft to solidify its position at Berlin Tegel. The transaction cost €40 million ($50 million).
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easyJet needed capacity
To pick up the slack left by Air Berlin, easyJet needed more capacity and fast. It turned to wet leasing specialist WDL Aviation for assistance. You may remember WDL Aviation from such incidents as when a BA flight to Dusseldorf accidentally landed in Edinburgh.
— Marcel Huber Photography (@MaHuPics) February 5, 2018
On January 11th, 2018, the first Bae 146, D-AWBA, arrived from WDL Aviation, positioned from Zurich to Berlin Tegel to begin easyJet flights. The same day, another 146 flew in from Vienna – D-AMGL. The third, D-AWUE, arrived on January 31st, flying in from Cologne to TXL. All three flew under easyJet’s U2 flight numbers, but were operated by WDL Aviation.
AWBA flew for easyJet most of the year, running exclusively between TXL and Zurich. AMGL was mostly assigned to flights between Vienna and Tegel, while AWUE mixed it up between Paris, Zurich and Munich. An additional BAe joined briefly in the summer to provide the carrier with spot capacity.
Where did they go?
By the end of the summer, easyJet’s need for leased capacity had declined. AWUE returned to WDL’s base in Cologne in July, and by August, she was joined by AMGL. The final BAe stayed a little longer, but on October 16th, the dalliance with the baby quad had ended. The winter was coming, and all the 146s returned to WDL.
But they’ve not been idle since then. WDL retains ownership of two of the four, but has operated them on behalf of a number of other European airlines, including Air France subsidiary Hop! and British Airways’ Cityflyer service.
Two have left WDL, both heading for a new life down under. AZFR and AWUE have both gone to Pionair Australia, a cargo and passenger ACMI airline operating out of Sydney. They have joined its fleet of 10 BAe 146 and two E190s, providing charter and specialist flights.
Did you ever fly easyJet’s BAe 146s? Let us know in the comments.