Featured image: Rob Hodgkins/CC BY-SA 2.0

5/04/1979: Air Europe Commenced Operations

DALLAS – Today, in 1979, London Gatwick-based (LGW) Air Europe (AE) operated its maiden flight. Flight AE1004, operated by a Boeing 737-200 (G-BMHG), departed LGW bound for Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI).

The airline was established in 1978 by two former Dan-Air (DAA) executives, Errol Cossey and Martin O’Regan. The pair approached UK Inclusive Tour (IT) operator Intasun to operate their charter flights.

The 737-300 was used to replace the older -200s and began to arrive in 1987.

Photo: Pedro Aragão, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Industry Firsts

The airline had several firsts during its history. It became the first new charter airline in the UK for 12 years, the first charter airline to operate new airframes from the outset, and the first UK charter airline to become profitable in its first year.

Its network grew to 29 destinations during the first summer, and 250,000 passengers were carried on 2,100 flights.

AE opened a second base at Manchester (MAN) in November 1979. It became the airline’s fastest-growing departure point for several years. The airline also added Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds Bradford, and Newcastle.

On April 6, 1983, the airline introduced the Boeing 757-200. AE would go on to operate seven of the type. In 1988, AE became one of the pioneers of Extended Range Twin Operations (ETOPS), working closely with fellow British 757 operator Monarch Airlines (MON) to gain approval for their aircraft.

At the time of the carrier’s demise, it operated a fleet of four Fokker 100s, five Boeing 737-300s, six 737-400s, and five 757-200s, all less than 18 months old and it had numerous jets on order.

Photo: Maarten Visser from Capelle aan den IJssel, Nederland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taking on the Big Boys

In May 1985, the airline entered the scheduled market. By the summer of 1989, AE was operating 150 scheduled services per week across 16 routes, directly competing with established flag carriers.

As the carrier entered the nineties, it was flying high. It held 20% of all take-off and landing slots at LGW and operated more short-haul services than any other airline. But mounting tension in the Middle East, coupled with a deep economic recession in the UK, led to declining passenger numbers.

On March 8, 1991, the airline declared bankruptcy, leaving 25,000 passengers stranded worldwide.

Featured image shows G-BMHG, the carrier’s first aircraft. The last two letters were selected as a tribute to chairman Harry Goodman.

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