GlobalX (G6, Miami International) is studying all available options for the setting up of an Air Operator's Certificate in an undisclosed European country to grow its long-term ACMI cooperation with TUI Group carriers, Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Wegel said during a quarterly investor call.

"We're analysing that and discussing that with [TUI] to see if that makes sense. We're looking at the cost of that, but there is an opportunity to greatly expand our relationship with TUI in terms of the number of aircraft that we operate for them and, obviously, the revenue base," he said.

The American charter/ACMI specialist debuted operations in Europe during the summer of 2022 by wet leasing a single A320-200 to TUI fly (Netherlands) (OR, Amsterdam Schiphol). However, the contract was cut short when, despite assurances from the Dutch airline, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) objected to the contract given GLOBALX's lack of an EU Third Country Operator (TCO) authorisation.

GLOBALX emphasised that the Dutch tour operator airline paid for the entire duration of the wet-lease, as agreed in the contract, even though the US airline was not actually operating. The two carriers plan to expand their cooperation going forward.

"They [TUI Group] see the need for our aircraft and our services for a significant number of years, we've come to terms on a 3-year agreement with rates, we're working through the details of the contract before anything formal can be announced and booked... We're looking forward to an incredibly long relationship with TUI, and other charter operators, airline operators in Europe, in the summer, with our TCO in place, with the aircraft type we have, and with our ability to execute on the work, we believe there are significant opportunities in Europe, not only in 2023, but 2024, 2025, and 2026," Chief Financial Officer Ryan Goepel added.

Wegel did not respond to ch-aviation's query as to the locale for its European AOC.

GLOBALX is also rapidly expanding its fleet. Wegel said the first two A321-200(P2F)s would deliver by the end of the year, following a small conversion backlog delay. The first is expected to enter revenue service by the end of November and the second by mid-December 2022. Wegel said the converted A321s will be significant growth drivers in 2023, as GLOBALX plans to take a further seven of the type, all of which have already been secured. Going forward, the airline plans to add a further six freighters in 2024 and another ten in 2025 to reach its goal of 25 freighters that year.

The carrier also plans to add two passenger aircraft by the end of 2022 - an A321-200 leased on a power-by-the-hour basis, which will eventually be converted into a freighter, and its first A319-100. It will take a second A319-100 in the first quarter of 2023, alongside an A320-200 that will operate for an undisclosed VIP customer. The airline remains on the lookout for two more A320-200s to add in the second half of 2023 but does not "anticipate any problem in identifying those aircraft".

Wegel confirmed earlier reports that the carrier was also closely studying the opportunity for adding B717-200s, and it was "a very real possibility" that GLOBALX would add the niche type.

"About half of the clients that we talk to work with need an aircraft that can fly for 3 hours and carry 60 to 80 passengers. The B717 fits perfectly within those parameters and, for us, would be a very cheap aircraft to operate. There are also a lot of MD80-qualified pilots, which would ease the strain on our acquisition of A320 pilots... We are analysing this versus more A319s and versus perhaps going immediately to A330s. But if we had this airplane in our fleet right now, it would be an exceptional performer for us. We balance that against the complexity of operating two aircraft types within a small airline like GLOBALX," he explained.

Wegel added that the despite some increases in lease prices, the market was still good for opportunistic deals.

"We think Europe will have a difficult time over the next year. We think that airline growth in Europe will slow down. And there may be some airlines that cease operating. We look to drive very, very good deals on leased aircraft... We think this situation will continue for at least another 12 months as the excess aircraft either remain in storage or are sent to be disassembled or perhaps absorbed back into some airline systems. We are going to take advantage of that and tie up as many airplanes as we can over the next 12 months to fuel our growth," he stressed.

He added that the airline was evaluating options to buy aircraft, although GLOBALX did not have the equity to self-finance such transactions.

"We have talked to certain financing sources about creating an aircraft acquisition facility for us, where we could put in a very, very sliver piece of equity. And they would finance the bulk of the aircraft so that we either put the aircraft on a finance lease or some [other] way that we could acquire the aircraft," Wegel explained.