Steadily growing in the past year, the global ACMI (wet leasing) market is projected not to stop here. With the compound annual growth rate of 5.4%, it is estimated that the market will reach $7.07 billion revenue by 2025, according to the Global Aircraft ACMI Leasing market research report. Darius Kajokas, CEO of ACMI provider Avion Express, shares insight on contributing factors behind the sector’s successful stride.

Probably the biggest changes in the global aviation market this year were provoked by the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. Could you elaborate on the impact it had on the wet-lease market?

It is valid to say that global demand for ACMI services is growing for the past few years. At the same time, this growth was additionally amplified during 2019 by the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX. The latter event impacted numerous airlines around the world and wet-leasing was, and still is, one of the solutions which help scheduled and charter airlines to tackle issues connected to the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX.

As of summer 2019, Avion Express has a fleet of 22 aircraft, which is the biggest number in its history. Are you setting further expansion goals? What are they?

Avion Express has been steadily growing its fleet since 2011. A lot of hard work and resources were put into this expansion. It is worth to mention that one of the key goals for us while growing the fleet and expanding operations is to maintain high standards of our services. 

While planning forward we try to analyze and capitalize on market opportunities. In 2019 we have established a subsidiary airline in Malta. This airline, called Avion Express Malta, opens opportunities to strengthen our market position as a global narrow-bodies ACMI provider as well as indirectly gives us access to the US market. Malta is an FAA-approved country, and we have already applied to the US regulators for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit and received an exemption authority from the US Department of Transportation.

What is your vision of the ACMI market’s future?

ACMI services provide flexibility and help airlines to implement growth plans in an efficient and timely manner. For past several years wet-leasing is getting more sought-after by airlines in various markets, not only in unexpected and challenging situations such as grounding of Boeing 737 MAX, but also when it comes to reasons such as a need for additional capacity, managing seasonality and crew shortage, testing new routes and markets, and others. Greater and greater number of aviation companies are hiring wet-leasing services, turning the cooperation between airlines and ACMI providers into long-term partnerships – this is an interesting development of the aviation market and we are glad to be part of it. 

In 2019, Avion Express was named “ACMI Operator of the Year” by International Business News and was also added to the list of the “Ones to watch” by the European Business Awards. From your experience, what are the key factors that allow for success in this business?

There are many characteristics for which scheduled and charter airlines are looking in ACMI operators. These characteristics include flexibility, client-oriented approach, reliability, quick reaction and the ability to keep up with the aviation industry changes. I think that Avion Express embodies all of them. 

The driving force of our company is the highly-professional and motivated team. Avion Express achievements are the result of the contribution of the whole dedicated and hardworking team, which invests their efforts and knowledge every day to develop and move the company forward.   

What are the main principles Avion Express follows in their work?

In simple words we call Avion Express “an airline for airlines” – by being flexible and offering tailor-made solutions to every client, we, as an ACMI provider, can help scheduled and charter airlines to develop their businesses and solve their operational challenges.

During the past few years, Avion Express has operated for numerous airlines around the world, including Condor, Norwegian, Onur Air, Royal Air Maroc, Sky Airlines, Sky Angkor, SunExpress, Thomas Cook, Transavia, and many others. Flexibility and meeting the needs of customers have always been top priorities for Avion Express. At the same time, forward-thinking, timely resource management allow us to provide the clients with ACMI solutions even on short notice and to help them overcome challenges of the modern aviation world.

Darius Kajokas is CEO and Board Member of Avion Express, an experienced narrow-body ACMI operator, successfully working with clients in Europe as well as Africa, Asia-Pacific, South America, and operating 22 Airbus A320 family aircraft in 2019. Darius came to aviation in mid-2017 and brought his over 9 years’ experience in finance working for some of the leading companies in the fields of FMCG, pharmacy as well as one of the Big Four firms. Darius has acquired vast international experience and built a global expertise in areas such as corporate finance, strategic planning and strategy implementation and negotiations.