November 22, 2016 / 5:41 AM / 3 years ago

After plane crashes, Taiwan's TransAsia seeks to wind down operations

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways Corp said on Tuesday it would wind down operations and suspend all scheduled flights, failing to recover from two plane crashes in almost three years.

A logo of of Taiwan's third-largest airline, TransAsia Airways Corp. is seen in front of its counter after it applied to suspend its flights on Tuesday, without giving any earlier warning, at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Struggling to overcome safety concerns raised by Taiwan’s regulator, the island’s third-largest carrier has also been hit by intense regional and domestic competition and has reported losses for the previous six quarters. It shut down its low-cost offering, V Air, last month.

TransAsia’s collapse is, however, a rarity in the industry in recent years as the sector benefits from low interest rates and falling fuel costs.

“This is a very painful choice for the company,” Chief Executive Daniel Liu told a news briefing, adding the company was not able to hammer out an overhaul plan.

“Our communications with investors have not been successful,” he said. Six to seven options had been discussed, he added, including raising more capital.

TransAsia operates 27 routes with a fleet of 16 aircraft in service and employs some 1,800 people. The plan to shut down the firm will need to be approved by shareholders.

Shares in company tumbled 7 percent on Monday amid heavy trade before it flagged that a suspension of flights was imminent. The government has raised concerns over potential insider trading and launched a probe.

The carrier has also said it would not be able to pay back a convertible bond due later this month due to lack of capital.

Early this year, Taiwan’s aviation safety agency urged TransAsia to review its safety protocols, pilot training programme and hiring practices so as to cut “imminent risks”.

Those recommendations were among 10 made by the Aviation Safety Council following its investigation into a July 2014 crash of TransAsia’s flight GE222 which killed 48 of the 58 passengers and crew. That plane slammed into buildings during the landing approach.

Less than a year later, another flight crashed into a river shortly after taking off from Taipei’s Songshan airport.

Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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