Air Albania flights to Europe commenced on Monday, despite the fact it has still not been granted a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) license.
Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Belinda Balluku called Air Albania a “prestigious company” and referred to its planes as “baby eagles”.
According to the EASA’s list of Authorised Third Country Operators, as of this morning the only Albanian airline with a license to operate in the EU is Albawings. In order to avert a PR disaster and launch on time despite the lack of license, Air Albania was forced to wet-lease from Turkish Airlines.
This wet lease means that Air Albania will lease aircraft from Turkish Airlines, therefore being able to use their EASA Third Country Operators (TCO) license and enjoy all of the benefits that it brings.
By using Turkish Airlines aircraft with Air Albania branding, they will be able to fly to and from European Union destinations. It also means that Turkish Airlines would become the recognised entity and would be financially, legally, and technically responsible for Air Albania.
It had previously been reported that the Air Director, Trainer, Maintenance Director of Air Albania are Turkish citizens, 49% of shares are owned by Turkish Airlines, and allegedly another 41% of the shares are owned by Turkish-Albanian citizens. The administrator of Air Albania is also apparently a Turkish citizen who was born in Istanbul and is a proxy representative of Turkish Airlines.
This combined with the new wet-leasing agreement means that Air Albania as an Albanian airline does not exist, instead it is essentially a subsidiary of Turkish Airlines.
It was alleged by Panorama that reasons behind the current lack of license for Air Albania could be due to the fact that 90% of ownership is Turkish. As per Albanian and European laws, the validity of the license is conditional on the company owning the airline being controlled by either EU nationals or nationals of the issuing state, in this case, Albania.
They also wrote that Air Albania was not in sufficient financial standing to meet the criteria of the EASA, and that the 10% state ownership through ALBCONTROL was a conflict of interest.
The government and the Albanian Civil Aviation department has denied that Air Albania’s license has been denied by the EASA and the EASA declined to comment.