DALLAS – When the low-cost revolution began in the UK and Europe in the late 1990s, legacy carriers such as British Airways (BA) were slow to react as they believed these new entrants would never last.
But as emerging airlines such as easyJet (U2) and Ryanair (FR) began to eat into BA’s passenger numbers, CEO Bob Ayling knew he needed to react. So, he launched ‘Project Lupin’ to look at ways in which BA could compete with these new low-cost carriers (LCCs).
At first, Ayling looked at purchasing FR or U2, but talks with both soon fell through. It was then decided that BA would create its own no-frills spin-off.
Ayling wanted a completely independent company to run alongside BA, free from its high costs and expensive overheads. It needed to compete directly with its low-cost rivals while complementing rather than cannibalizing its short-haul network.
‘Operation Blue Sky’
British Airways’ New York General Manager Barbara Cassani was brought in to head the project. Like many LCC bosses before her, she headed to Dallas, home of Southwest Airlines (WN). But rather than visit Her Keller, Cassani went onboard as she wanted to focus on customer service, something she felt was lacking with her rivals.
On November 17, 1997, BA announced its new LCC known as ‘Operation Blue Sky.’ With a starting capital of £25m, Cassani sourced three Boeing 737-300s and announced its new base as London Stansted (STN).
The fledgling airline had a base and aircraft, but still no name. Numerous suggestions were put forward, including ‘Blue Sky,’ ‘Osca Airlines,’ and ‘A to B’, cleverly spelling BA backward. On January 30, 1998, it was revealed the carrier would be christened ‘Go Fly’ with Wolf Ollins designing the retro sixties style logo and branding.
Rivals Speak Out
Cassani and her team worked hard to get ready for Go’s launch. However, both U2 and FR attempted to stop the new airline. Both claimed that Go was being created to drive them out of business. The outspoken boss of FR, Michael O’Leary, said, “BA has no idea how to run a low-fare airline.”
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Featured image: G-IGOE was the airline’s third 737 to join the fleet. It would join easyJet following the takeover. Photo: kitmasterbloke, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.