MIAMI – Today in Aviation, UK charter and sub-lease carrier Astraeus Airlines (5W) ceased operations in 2011 for more than one reason.

CEO Hugh Parry citied ‘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 carriers 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.

5W operated the Boeing 737-300 (pictured here), -500 and -700 variants. (Photo: Adrian Pingstone Wikimedia)

A Change of Ownership and a Change of Direction


In 2006 Icelandic investment company Fons Eignarhaldsfelag took a 51% stake in the airline. The remaining 49% was held by Astraeus management and Aberdeen Asset Management, a private equity provider which supported the airlines launch in 2002. 

This change in ownership also led to a change in direction for 5W. In May 2008 Its charter and scheduled flights were dropped in favour of providing dry, damp and wet-lease aircraft.

The new strategy led to aircraft being operated with Ghana International (G0), British Midland (BD), Sterling Airlines (NB) and Iceland Express (HC).  

G-OJIB in its full ‘Ed Force One’ color scheme. (Photo: Ken Fielding/https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Another of its leasing agreements was with rock band Iron Maiden, whose lead singer Bruce Dickinson was a pilot for the airline. In 2008, as part of the bands Somewhere Back in Time tour, Boeing 757 (G-OJIB) was converted to a combi and painted in a special ‘Ed Force One’ colour scheme.

In 2011, the aircraft was meant to be used again for the bands The Final Frontier World Tour. However another of the airlines 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)