The Air UK story

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Air UK Herald at Jersey in 1982
Air UK stewardesses

Air UK was formed by the merger of British Island Airways and Air Anglia and became one of the most important carriers for the Channel Islands in the 1980s and 1990s.

Largest regional airline

Operations commenced on January 16, 1980. Air UK was the largest regional airline in the UK and the country's third-largest scheduled carrier. It had a staff of 1,700, carried more than 1 million, mainly scheduled, passengers annually and had a fleet of 40 aircraft, consisting of six jets (four ex-BIA BAC One-Eleven 400s and two ex-Air Anglia F-28 4000 series Fellowships) and 34 turboprops (including eighteen ex-BIA Handley Page Dart Heralds, ten ex-Air Anglia Fokker F-27 100/200 series Friendships and six Embraer 110 Bandeirantes originally part of the BIA, Air Wales and Air Westward fleets).

Former BIA managing director Peter Villa became Air UK's first chief executive.

At the time of its creation, Air UK was sometimes referred to as the unofficial "Third Force" among the main contemporary scheduled airlines in the UK (British Caledonian being the UK's official "Second Force" and British Airways (BA) the primary UK flag carrier at that time).

Air UK's scheduled route network initially served Jersey, Guernsey, 20 UK airports and 11 in Europe.

Air UK was the first and, at the time, only scheduled airline in the UK to fly from all three main London airports.

BA routes acquired

Following British Airways' decision to retire its Vickers Viscount turboprop fleet and to withdraw from its loss-making regional scheduled routes, Air UK assumed BA's regional routes from, among others, Heathrow to Guernsey and Edinburgh to Jersey in April 1980.

Following the move to Stansted in 1988, Air UK became London's third airport's biggest resident airline and its main scheduled operator. The company began building a comprehensive network of short-haul domestic and European feeder routes that was intended to provide connecting traffic for the long-haul carriers that were then expected to commence operations from Stansted.

Air UK's move to the new Norman Foster-designed terminal in early 1991 provided the impetus for the launch of several new, year-round scheduled routes linking Stansted with important business destinations including the Channel Islands.

In 1997 KLM became the sole owner of Air UK. This resulted in the airline being rebranded as KLMuk in January 1998, including the adoption of a new livery. In 2002, KLM decided to integrate what was left of KLMuk into KLM Cityhopper, its wholly owned, Dutch-based regional subsidiary. This transaction constituted the final link in a long chain of events connecting the early- to mid-20th century decision of British & Commonwealth Shipping, a shipping company that could trace its roots to the 19th century, to diversify into commercial aviation through ownership of several of the post-/pre-war independent airlines that merged to form British United Airways, the UK's dominant private sector airline conglomerate of the 1960s, with what is arguably the world's most commercially successful airline of the first decade of the 21st century.


An Air UK Herald being cut up for scrap at Jersey Airport

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