Today, we thought we would delve into the world of charter airlines, looking at what became of the United Kingdom charter airline Air 2000. When package holidays to Spain and other Mediterranean resorts became all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s, tour operators decided that they could make more money if they had their own airlines.
By the 1980s, just about every major British tour operator had its own airline, and while many did well, others got swallowed up by larger companies during a feast of mergers. The United Kingdom’s third-largest tour operator, Owners Abroad, a travel company specializing in holiday villa rentals, looked at the likes of Thomson and ILG (Intasun) and decided that it too could do with having its own airline.
Air 2000 started with two Boeing 757s
Owners Abroad got together with former Air Europe CEO Errol Cossey and started an airline called Air 2000. Rather than focus on major markets like London and the Southeast, Air 2000 focused on regional operations flying out of Glasgow and Manchester.
Copying other UK charter airlines, Air 2000 decided that the Boeing 757 and its ability to carry 231 passengers would be ideal for non-stop flights from Glasgow and Manchester to summer holiday destinations around the Mediterranean Sea.
Air 2000’s first aircraft, registration G-OOOA, arrived from Boeing in April 1987 and was soon followed by a second Boeing 757, registration G-OOOB, towards the end of the month. Both planes were based at Manchester Airport in the northwest of England, where they flew to 12 Mediterranean destinations.
With 50% of the aircraft’s seats booked by Owners Abroad, they had no trouble filling the rest of the seats for the airline’s 35 weekly flights. Also, unlike the no-frills flights we are used to today, back in the 1980s, charter airlines were just like full-service carriers providing a free drinks service and hot meals.
Air 2000 started flying long-haul
Following a successful first summer flying out of Manchester, Air 2000 acquired another two 757s that it would base in Scotland. Now with four aircraft and nowhere to fly to during the winter months, Air 2000 tried to form a subsidiary in Canada called Air 2000 Airlines Ltd.
Unfortunately, the new company failed to get its international operators license from Canada’s National Transportation Agency. Nevertheless, the plan to operate two airlines with shared aircraft was finally accomplished not long after, with the airline’s Canadian arm being called Canada 3000.
No longer content to fly short-haul flights in Europe, Air 2000 started looking for winter sun destinations and in 1988 began flying from Gatwick Airport to Mombasa, Kenya. With Gatwick as a base, Air 2000 expanded further with ETOPS flights from the UK to Boston and Newark.
Also capitalizing on British families wanting to visit Walt Disney World, Air 2000 began year-round flights to Orlando, Florida, with a refueling stop in Bangor, Maine. Approaching the 1990s and the Gulf War, Air 2000 was aided by the collapse of ILGs Air Europe, managing to take several of the once high-flying charter company’s Boeing 757s.
Air 2000 merges with Thomsonfly
By 1993, Air 2000 was the UK’s third-largest charter airline, and despite its success, it missed out on the Spanish tourist boom and had to fight off a hostile takeover attempt from the Airtours Group. Restructuring and rebranding followed in 1994, resulting in the parent company of Air 2000 now being called First Choice Holidays.
In 2004, First Choice Holidays changed its name again to First Choice Airways and operated under that name until 2008. The airline then merged with Thomsonfly to create Thomson Airways.
During its lifespan, Planespotters.net lists Air 2000 as operating a fleet of the following aircraft:
- 27 x Boeing 757-200s
- 4 x Boeing 767-300s
- 1 x Boeing 737-300
- 12 x Airbus A320-200s
- 8 x Airbus A321-200s
Did you ever fly with Air 2000? If so, please tell us what you remember about them in the comments.