The European Regions Airline Association (ERA), which has more than 60 members, elected Estonian airline Xfly CEO Jan Palmer as its new president at its annual meeting yesterday.

ERA is one of the most powerful airline associations in Europe, bringing together 65 airlines and 148 associated members: aircraft manufacturers, airports and supplier companies from the aviation industry. The most important partner to the organisation at the European Commission is the Directorate-General of Mobility, whose general director is senior official Henrik Hololei.

Jan Palmer (70), who has worked mostly for Northern European airlines, has more than 40 years of experience in aviation. His knowledge has been particularly valued in rescuing airlines facing difficulties. For these reasons, Palmer was appointed to turn around Estonia’s national airline Estonian Air at the end of 2012, which he managed to return to profit, but due to illegal state aid the airline had previously been granted it was forced to terminate its operations at the end of 2015.

“After more than 20 years on the board of ERA and the last six years as its Vice-President, I am honoured to be elected President of as highly regarded and important a body as the European Aviation Association,” Palmer says. “The timing could have been better, since aviation and many other business sectors are facing their worst crisis ever, and I will certainly do my best to keep up the excellent work done so far by Andrew Clark from the Irish Airline Group ASL. Airlines, airports, manufacturers and suppliers will have to work closely with the professional ERA Team led by Montserrat Barriga to find ways of getting the aviation industry through the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be challenging, but for better or worse, I won’t give up.”

According to Xfly’s head of marketing and communication Toomas Uibo, it was Palmer’s years of experience in aviation, successful leadership in running companies and impeccable reputation in the European aviation circles that saw him elected. “It’s great recognition for Estonia as well to have the CEO of a local airline chosen as the next president of one of the most powerful aviation organisations there is,” he says. “I’m sure the success of the Estonian flight operator Xfly has been noted in Europe, which under Jan’s lead has managed to become one of the biggest and most successful capacity providers in Europe. It certainly speaks in favour of appointing him to this post.”

Xfly is a subsidiary of Nordica which uses its own fleet and crews to operate flights for other airlines, including Nordica itself. Xfly helped to keep Tallinn connected via five routes prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The main partners of Xfly are European as airlines like SAS, LOT, Nordica, Luxair, Austrian, airMalta, airSerbia and Blueislands. It is the biggest and most successful Estonian airline in history.