DALLAS – Today in Aviation, British charter carrier Air 2000 (DP) commenced operations in 1987. The inaugural flight departed Manchester (MAN) bound for Malaga (AGP).
The UK’s third-biggest tour operator, Owners Abroad, had set up the airline after seeing the success its rivals Thomson and International Leisure Groups (ILG) were having with their own in-house airlines.
The tour operator teamed up with Errol Cossey, the former CEO of Air Europe. Unlike its competitors, DP would focus on its regions, and its first base was Manchester (MAN), followed by London Gatwick (LGW). From the outset,
Air 2000 would focus on high-quality onboard service, with hot meals served on every flight. It also became one of the first charter carriers to launch a “premium” cabin with its ‘Super Lion Class.’
A year after its inaugural flight, the carrier opened its third base in Glasgow. The fleet had also grown to four Boeing 757-200s. The aircraft were ETOPS equipped, which allowed transatlantic flights to commence in 1989. It also posted a profit of £3m. By 1993 Air 2000 had grown to be the third-largest charter airline in the UK.
The carrier expanded its fleet during the 1990s, adding Boeing 757s from defunct carriers Hispania (XF) and Air Europe (AE). This allowed new bases to be opened in Birmingham (BHX), Newcastle (NCL), and its first outside the UK, Dublin (DUB), in 1996. To supplement the 757s, DP ordered four Airbus A320s, with the first arriving on lease in March 1992.
Scheduled flights began in 1993 from LGW to Larnaca (LCA) and Paphos (PFO). The flights were successful and later launched from NCL, BHX, GLA, and MAN.
In October 2003, the airline’s new owners announced that Air 2000 would be rebranded as First Choice Airways as part of a £1m branding change.
Featured image: G-OOOA was the carrier’s first Boeing 757 delivered directly from Seattle. Photo: Ken Fielding/https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons