A couple of weeks ago I talked to you about my flying history, and whilst it brought back a lot of happy memories for me, it also made me realise something. If you look at the British aviation scene in the last 15 years or so, it’s astonishing to think of all the major airlines that no longer exist.
Let’s start with Air 2000, the first airline I ever flew with. Air 2000 was founded in 1987. It bought out rival tour operator Leisure Airlines (part of AirUK who ceased operations in 1998). By 2004, they had rebranded to First Choice Airlines.
Britannia (founded 1961) lasted a very long time before rebranding to Thomsonfly also in 2004. A year later, in 2005, Thomsonfly and First Choice Airlines merged to become Thomson Airways, and later, TUI Airways.
British Midland International started life in 1938. In 2002 it began operating a low cost operation which lasted 10 years. The international arm ceased also ceased in 2012, merging into British Airways. It’s regional services managed to survive until 2019, at which point they filed for administration.
Monarch Airlines also stemmed from the late 1960s. They were relatively successful up until 2004, where their operating model changed to a low cost carrier to compete with the likes of easyJet and Ryanair. They struggled from then on, with rumours of them being wound up appearing on the internet quite frequently. Eventually the axe fell on them in October 2017.
Airtours were a relatively young airline by comparison of the above. They were founded in 1990, becoming MyTravel Airlines in 2002. MyTravel suffered huge losses as a result of the September 11th attacks in New York. They merged into Thomas Cook Airlines in 2008.
Excel Airways were even younger than that. Starting life in 1994 as Sabre Airways, and absorbing Air Atlanta Europe in 2006, the airline had a relatively trouble free time in life, even winning awards for best charter airline numerous years in a row. The airline filed for administration and ceased operations in 2008.
Thomas Cook Airlines has a long and complicated history, existing as the result of several mergers and rebrands. Initially Thomas Cook was a rebrand of JMC Airlines, itself a merger of Flying Colours and Caledonian Airways. JMC started life in 2000, rebranding to Thomas Cook in 2003. The airline became one of the biggest competitors in British charter traffic, however ceased operations in 2019.
It’s mad to think that if you had travelled to Manchester airport to do some plane spotting, you would have seen all of these airlines with their individual fleets all in full revenue service. Now, the only one that remains is TUI.
The UK now only has 3 airlines that operate wide body aircraft, and only 5 major international airlines in general, a stark contrast to that of 15 years ago. Why? Because of the rise of competitive low cost / high frequency carriers like easyJet and Ryanair. Seemingly the future is not in one flight per day to one destination, instead, three or four flights per day with smaller aircraft.