DALLAS — Today in Aviation, UK charter and sublease carrier Astraeus Airlines (5W) ceased operations in 2011 for more than one reason.
CEO Hugh Parry cited “lower-than-expected levels of business during the summer of 2011, a lack of contracts for winter 2011–2012, and some extremely bad luck with a number of technical issues” as reasons for the carrier’s collapse.
Established in 2002, 5W began life as a niche charter operator in the 150 segment. There had been a gap left in the market following the collapse of British World Airlines (VF) in 2001.
Charter flights from London Gatwick (LGW) and Manchester (MAN) commenced with a fleet of Boeing 737-300s.
A Change of Ownership; a Change of Direction
In 2006, Icelandic investment company Fons Eignarhaldsfelag took a 51% stake in the airline. Astraeus management and Aberdeen Asset Management, a private equity provider that supported the airline’s launch in 2002, held the remaining 49%.
This change in ownership also led to a change in direction for 5W. In May 2008, its charter and scheduled flights were dropped in favor of providing dry, damp, and wet-leased aircraft.
The new strategy led to aircraft being operated by Ghana International (G0), British Midland (BD), Sterling Airlines (NB), and Iceland Express (HC).
Another of its leasing agreements was with the rock band Iron Maiden, whose lead singer Bruce Dickinson was a pilot for the airline. In 2008, as part of the band’s Somewhere Back in Time tour, a Boeing 757 (G-OJIB) was converted to a combi and painted in a special Ed Force One color scheme.
In 2011, the aircraft was meant to be used again for the band’s The Final Frontier World Tour. However, another of the airline’s Boeing 757s, G-STRX, was used instead and painted in a different Iron Maiden livery.
Featured image: Astraeus operated a total of 16 Boeing 757s through the years. Photo: L Doddrell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons