13K passengers stranded after French airline goes bankrupt

Thirteen thousand air passengers are currently stranded overseas after French airline Aigle Azur filed for bankruptcy last week.

The vast majority — 11,000 people — are stuck in Algeria, according to Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, France’s secretary of state for transport.

The airline, which carried around 1.9 million passengers last year, filed for bankruptcy last week and on Friday night canceled all of its flights.

Djebbari confirmed that the airline’s failure has not only affected its 1,150 employees, including 500 crew members, but thousands of travelers too.

In an interview with French TV channel RMC on Monday, he said: “There are 13,000 passengers who bought their tickets and will need to be repatriated. Among them, 11,000 are in Algeria, six in Mali, then in Lebanon, in Moscow and in Senegal.”

Efforts to rescue those stranded passengers could take weeks, according to Djebbari.

“On Friday night, I had a meeting with all French airlines and I asked them to play their part in the repatriation. I especially would like to thank Air France for chartering additional flights to Algeria,” he said.

“We think that over the course of three weeks we will have dealt with most of the passenger flow,” the minister added.

Aigle Azur specialized in flying between France and Algeria, before pursuing an unsuccessful expansion “to the whole Maghreb,” according to Djebbari.

The airline has received 14 takeover bids, the French Directorate General of Civil Aviation confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.

Among the bidders are Air France and EasyJet, according to French news agency AFP, while the The Dubreuil Group, which owns Air Caraibes, told CNN that it has submitted a partial takeover offer.

Interested parties could be attracted by Aigle Azur’s landing slots at Orly, Paris’ second largest airport.

The bids, which could stave off a collapse that would put its 1,150 employees out of work, will be considered at a meeting on Friday.

HNA Group, the Chinese conglomerate which owns Hainan Airlines, is the largest shareholder in Aigle Azur with a 49% stake.

American airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32% and French businessman Gerard Houa holds 19%.