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The Guvnor
6th Oct 2001, 01:14
BBC NEWS

Air Lib planes seized in Paris
AOM/Air Liberte was part of the Swissair empire

French airport authorities have seized three planes belonging to Air Lib, to cover unpaid landing fees. They warned they could seize up to 50 aircraft.

Air Lib is suffering from cash flow problems, because Swissair failed to honour a deal to pay its former subsidiary 1.3bn French francs ($174m; 122m) for pulling out of the French regional carrier in July.

The order to impound the planes was later lifted, following a request by the French transport ministry.

The news came as another Swissair affilate, Belgian airline Sabena, filed for bankruptcy.

Swissair had a 49.5% stake in the smaller airline - then called AOM/Air Liberte - which it gave up to concentrate on salvaging its major operations. Earlier in the week, Swissair nearly collapsed, and is now under bankruptcy protection while a rescue deal is hammered out.

Debt pile

A spokesman for the Paris airport operator said: "Air Lib has stopped payments to Aeroports de Paris since 15 May."

ADP was holding the three planes in lieu of unpaid landing fees of 8m French francs.

"We have a list of about 50 aircraft for which the debt owed to Aeroports de Paris is about 72m francs", he added.

ADP said it hopes to avoid impounding planes needed for passenger flights. The seized planes were due to undergo maintainance checks.

More jobs at risk?

In total, Air Lib owes 28 million euros of which 19 million euros predates the company's bankruptcy filing in June, ADP said.

Air Lib was subsequently bought by Holco with French government approval. Holco is led by a former pilot, Jean-Charles Courbet, who promised that two thirds of the 5,000 staff would keep their jobs.

Swissair was rescued from bankruptcy on 3 October when two major Swiss banks agreed a rescue package.

But its flights were grounded for two days when the deal with UBS and Credit Suisse failed to provide an immediate cash injection to pay for fuel and airport taxes.