Airlines Remembered

Exel Aviation Group

Photos © R.Leeuw

Ceased operations: early 2005
Homebase: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Founded: 2004
ICAO callsign: Holland Exel
IATA / ICAO prefix: - / HLX
Operations: passengers


Boeing 767-31A(ER) PH-MCV (c/n 27619/595) started its career with another Dutch airline: Martinair. After a brief career abroad it returned to the Netherlands for HollandExel, in which colourscheme it is seen here upon landing at Amsterdam-Schiphol (SPL / EHAM) in May 2005 (while already operating for its new owner, ArkeFly).

HollandExel was founded on the ruins of Air Holland (which went under for the 3rd time!).
Its fleet consisted of 3 Boeing 767-383(ER)'s: PH-AHQ (c/n 24477/337), PH-AHX (c/n 24847/315) and PH-AHY (c/n 24848/325); the latter was leased/operated for BelgiumExel.
+Although headed by Harm Prins, the driving force behind the Exel Aviation Group EAG) was Erik de Vlieger (who made a fortune in real estate and owned IMCA, an investment group). He bought parts of Air Holland and built HollandExel from the remains; he rapidly expanded his aviation empire, but his airlines often consisted of only one plane (BelgiumExel, DutchCaribbeanExel, AlsaceExel). He also tried to buy Dutchbird, but bungled the purchase when newspapers published news that his righthand man, Harm Prins, was involved in money-laundering and drugs and was consequently put under arrest.
The Exel Aviation Group started to desintegrate late-2004, soon after the takeover of Dutchbird; when failed Air Holland (declared bankrupt 25Mar04 with 30 million euros in debt) was investigated for alleged laundering of drugs money and arrests were made, it put HollandExel in negative publicity as well. In Feb.2005 HollandExel filed for the Dutch equivalent of Chapter 11 and its main client, touroperator TUI Netherlands invested millions to keep the airline flying. Two months later, TUI Netherlands continued HollandExel under new management, operating as ArkeFly and the fleet of aircraft (4 Boeing 767s by now) plus some 400 employees moved to the new company. In May 2005 HollandExel was declared bankrupt.

Boeing 767-383(ER) PH-AHY (c/n 24848/325) is seen here after landing on rw18R at Amsterdam on 08Aug04; it is decorated with titles.

BelgiumExel was mainly operating for touroperator Thomas Cook Belgium, which pulled the plug when EAG started desintegrating and cancelled several flights; they did not share the same view as TUI and instead went over to the competitor: Martinair (which hauled in a big contract to operate all the long-haul flights for Thomas Cook Netherlands and -Belgium until summer 2008).

Boeing 767-383(ER) PH-AHX (c/n 24847/315) is seen here on May13th, 2005 while in the colourscheme of Air Holland, with titles and whilst operating for TUI Netherlands/ArkeFly!
Frankly I was quite surprised that a reputable touroperator such as TUI did not expedite the rebranding of HollandExel, which went under in a series of sordid affairs and was hardly a name to advertise as an airline by this time...

Here is a list of what EAG included: -
In Holland the name AirExel, former KLMExel, was a familiar brand; it operated European routes from Eindhoven.
Abroad EAG consisted of:
AlsaceExel, operating from Strassbourg scheduled services (a.o. to Amsterdam)
BelgiumExel, operating holiday charters from Brussels (but also involved in operations from AMS)
LoirExel carried out flight with France
GrandaExel was a regional aviation company in Italy.
EAG owned or shared in several aviation companies on the Dutch Antilles:
ArubaExel operated scheduled services from Aruba to the United States (John van de Berg wrote me in June 2007: "ArubaExel actually never took off. Their sole ATR was operated by Curacao- and BonairExel").
BonairExel performed regional services between the Dutch Antilles and Aruba. BonairExel is owned by AEG main shareholder Niek Sandmann/Dutch Eagle Express. Sandmann announced end-2004 to severe the ties between BonairExel and EAG and to seek cooperation with KLM
CuraçaoExel operated a scheduled service between Curaçao and Sint Maarten
AirHolland operated a scheduled service between Amsterdam and Curaao. After the takeover of Air Holland by the ExelAviationGroup the DutchCaribbeanExel was founded, operating a Boeing 767 previously owned by Air Holland on this service. Holiday charter traffic was transferred to HollandExel.
And that was not even all! There was DynamicExel operating privat flights and ExelCapital, which had its business with the lease, sale and financing of aircraft.
And ExelTechnics was the aircraft maintenance company.

About ExelTechnics Barry Nab wrote me:"it still exists but has been taken over by the Stella Aviation Group (division of Steltenberg), which has Stella Aviation Charter B.V. and Stella Aviation Academy B.V. under its wings (both are based at Teuge) as well as Stella Maintenance (Teuge & Schiphol-Oost). Stella Maintenance performs the maintenance of ArkeFly's aircraft and the remaining permits owned by ExelTechnics have been taken over too. Thanks Barry!
Sadly, Barry Nab died as a result of a plane crash at Teuge (Netherlands) on 02JUN2011.
Barry Nab 05Oct1982 - 03Jun2011 R.I.P.


Boeing 767-383(ER) PH-AHQ (c/n 24477/337) is seen here on its way for take off from Amsterdam.

ATR.42-320 PH-XLK (c/n 093) is seen here with titles, while on take off at AMS on 15Jun04.

On Wednesday May04th 2005, HollandExel was declared bankrupt before the courts of Amsterdam; status of the Dutch version of "Chapter 11" for ATR IV (Exel Technics) plus ATR V and VI (HollandExel) were converted to bankruptcies.
The EAG empire had its dream, but it lasted only shortly, the bubble bursted amidst a flurry of scandals and daily exposures in the media.


Airlines Worldwide, by B.I.Hengi (Midland Publishing, 2000)
JP Airline Fleets 2004
Links: Airline Histories

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Last updated 12.6.2007