Cimber Sterling goes bankrupt

Passengers left holding worthless tickets after airline cancels all routes

The Danish airline Cimber Sterling has declared bankruptcy after its owners decided not to continue their financial support of the company.

“Because of this, the board of directors has decided to declare the company bankrupt,” the company said in a statement.

The statement goes on to say that all of the airline’s flights are “provisionally cancelled” and that flyers that had purchased travel insurance would receive a refund from the Travel Guarantee Fund.

Travellers who did not purchase travel insurance are pretty much out of luck.

Jan Palmer, Cimber’s CEO, said he was most concerned about the airline’s customers.

"This is a sad day for Danish aviation, for Cimber Sterling and for me personally," Palmer told Jyllands-Posten. “But it is far worse for those passengers that have been left holding tickets.” 

Jesper Hansen and his wife wound up stranded in Rome with a pair of worthless Cimber Sterling tickets. He did not purchase travel insurance when he booked the flights and now must buy two new tickets to get back to Denmark. Hansen acknowledged that not buying the insurance was probably a mistake.

"It would probably have been smarter to play it safe during these times when airlines are having trouble making money,” he told Jyllands-Posten.

The bankruptcy hits domestic routes connecting Copenhagen Airport to Karup, Bornholm, Sønderborg and Billund especially hard because Cimber Sterling was the only company flying from those smaller airports to the capital. Passengers from Aarhus and Aalborg can still get to and from Copenhagen on SAS.

SAS has announced it is adding flights in light of the development but acknowledged that the bankruptcy of Cimber Sterling, which was their partner on several routes, will affect some SAS flights.

"It is inevitable that this situation will affect SAS traffic,” the company wrote in a statement. “Our priority is those customers that purchased tickets from SAS.”

SAS’s statement calls Cimber Sterling’s bankruptcy “deeply regrettable" and says that SAS is working to get schedules back to normal as soon as possible, although they were not sure when that would be.

A spokesperson from Copenhagen Airport said they are working to fill the gap left by Cimber Sterling.

"We are looking at what we can do to fill the hole,” the airport's communications officer, Anne Munck, told Jyllands-Posten. “These cancellations will not affect other traffic at Copenhagen Airport.”

Cimber had suffered financial difficulties over the past couple of years, leading to its partial sale to Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyi in August 2011. It was his Cypriot-based company, Mansvell, that pulled the plug.

The Sønderborg-based carrier had operated for nearly 62 years since its founding as Cimber Air in 1950. It gained the Sterling brand when it bought Sterling Airlines in 2008. The company operated about 25 planes.

What will ultimately happen to Cimber Sterling’s routes, equipment – and more than 600 employees – is still uncertain.

The company said that it hopes to resume flying some routes in the future to improve its value to any possible buyers.