Niceair (Akureyri) has said in a statement that it plans to file for bankruptcy and that all claims will now go through the legal process. It placed the blame squarely on Hi Fly Malta (3L, Malta International), from which it wet-leased its only aircraft.

At the end of March, Hi Fly Malta appeared to take the step of retiring its only narrowbody, A319-100 9H-XFW (msn 3689), a twinjet that had been dedicated to the Icelandic virtual carrier since its launch in June 2022. That forced Niceair to suspend all flight operations. ch-aviation saw documents confirming that lessor Avolon had repossessed the aircraft from the production carrier. Niceair blamed Hi Fly Malta for not keeping up with its lease payments, an allegation the Maltese ACMI/charter specialist denied, instead blaming Niceair for non-compliance with the contract’s terms.

“These were in every way uncontrollable reasons. This closure is particularly tragic as there were good grounds and experience had shown that there was a basis for direct international flights through Akureyri,” the statement, issued on the evening of May 19, said. “We deeply regret the harm caused to the company’s customers, staff, suppliers, and others affected. All claims will go through the legal channels.”

Niceair’s chief executive, Þorvaldur Lúðvík Sigurjónsson, said in early May that the airline was looking at ways to resume flights in time for the summer season and was in talks with various capacity providers. It had been operating flights between northern Iceland and both Copenhagen Kastrup and Tenerife Sur with what he said was satisfactory capacity.

However, “after the company suffered major setbacks due to the non-compliance of its foreign partner HiFly, [...] there were no more flights operated by the company and the company had no income, so the conditions for a recently completed financing round were broken and it was not possible to recall the share capital pledge. The company laid off all employees at the end of April,” the statement added.

Contacted for comment by ch-aviation, Hi Fly Malta’s Portuguese parent Hi Fly (5K, Beja) responded: “We are sorry to hear about the bankruptcy filing of the virtual carrier Niceair. The aircraft Hi Fly operated for Niceair, an Airbus A319 owned by Hi Fly, was moved earlier this year to another ACMI contract in face of Niceair financial challenges.”

9H-XFW is currently being wet-leased from Hi Fly Malta by airBaltic (BT, Riga), the ch-aviation fleets module shows. Hi Fly clarified to ch-aviation: “Hi Fly has acquired the aircraft from Avolon. The aircraft is fully owned by Hi Fly.”

Sigurjónsson said in a closed Facebook post that the reasons for the bankruptcy could mostly be attributed to the practices of a foreign partner, although mistakes were made in Iceland too, local broadcaster RÚV reported. “I put my life, endless sweat, and sleepless nights into making this happen,” he added.

According to the ch-aviation capacities module, Akureyri continues to be served by Icelandair (FI, Reykjavik Keflavik), which operates 28x weekly from Reykjavik, and local carrier Norlandair (FNA, Akureyri), which flies 5x weekly to Vopnafjördur, 3x weekly to Grimsey, and 1x weekly to Neerlerit Inaat in Greenland.