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Air Scotland new owner says debts total £2m

20.10.05

The new owner of Air Scotland said the airline had debts of more than £2m when it took over earlier this week. The deeds that gave Spanish company Cupar Consultants full ownership were signed on Monday and the company has ordered a full audit.

Barcelona based Cupar Consultants now owns 100% of Greece Airways - Air Scotland and it promised the airline, which has a single plane, would continue to fly while trying to clear the debts. Company representative Rafael Barber-Llorente, speaking at a Glasgow airport hotel, also said the jobs of the Air Scotland staff were safe and there were long-term plans to expand the airline.

Barber-Llorente spoke for the first time about the problems that meant hundreds of passengers suffered lengthy delays over the past few days. He said the airline had now resumed normal service and he apologised to travellers who had endured hours of misery. He also said it would fulfil legal obligations if claims were made for compensation .

Problems began a week ago when passengers faced delays of up to 16 hours amid a row over unpaid fuel bills. The company's plane was then impounded at Glasgow Airport, and then again at Palma airport in Majorca too.

Until Thursday, Cupar Consultants had a 50% share in Air Scotland, but took it over after Air Scotland's founder Dhia Al-Ani said he was selling his share in the business. It is understood Cupar Consultants had not seen the books and was unaware debts had reached over £2m.

Barber-Llorente said: 'It was an explosive start last Thursday. We had not officially signed any papers but were getting phone calls after BP Fuel had refused to grant credit. Almost immediately it became clear Air Scotland was in greater debt than we thought. Within hours, BP Fuel had demanded advance payment, which triggered the start of the delays.'

'Since then we have discovered debts of over £2m. We have spent £1m plugging this financial hole and will continue to do so until Air Scotland is in the healthy state we believe it can be. We are also looking to appoint a new management.'

Barber-Llorente said he saw no reason why Air Scotland could not go from strength to strength. He added: 'We would like to run the airline with two or three planes and have already been making contact in that area.'

The airline's only service left Glasgow airport for Paris on time this morning and returned to Glasgow at lunchtime.

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