MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Edinburgh-based Scottish airline Flyglobespan went into administration in 2009, declaring bankruptcy and canceling all its scheduled flights. The company was liquidated on December 10, 2010.
The Scottish low-cost airline provided scheduled services to destinations in Europe, North America, North Africa and South Africa from five airports throughout Scotland, England and Ireland. Glasgow Airport (GLA), Edinburgh Airport (EDI) and Aberdeen Airport (ABZ) were its key bases. Its motto read ‘Award-winning airline’.
As an offshoot of the Globespan Group, Flyglobespan (a trading name for Globespan Airways Limited) was founded in November 2002. In April 2003, operations began using two Boeing 737-300 aircraft supplied by Channel Express to five destinations in Spain, France and Italy on services from Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK) and EDI.
Globespan, a tour operator based in Edinburgh with more than 30 years of experience, has already offered scheduled and charter flights, cruise, rail and coach travel, motorhome and car rental, and hotel accommodation tailored for holidaymakers visiting destinations in Canada, the United States and Spain.
Air Transat operated the scheduled flights, mainly to Canada, from airports across the UK, with Globespan acting as the booking agent and selling the flights under its own brand. A similar arrangement was tried between Edinburgh and Nice, in the south of France, in the summer of 2002. For Globespan, this was to prove successful, and led to the creation of its own ‘Flyglobespan’ no-frills brand.
Services started in 2003 with aircraft and crews supplied by Channel Express (LS), albeit under the red and white livery brand Flyglobespan, offering irregular flights to European holiday destinations. The offshoot proved successful and it increased flight frequencies.
Within months of starting operations, the operator relocated from PIK to the larger GLA, which is much closer to Central Scotland’s population centers. The Globespan Group bought the defunct airline operator Cougar Leasing together with its Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom (CAA) Aircraft Operating Certificate in 2004 to enable it to operate its own aircraft.
With its own operating license, the expansion of the new airline was rapid. New destinations, including Prague, where the airline was facing competition from Czech Airlines (OK), and additional points in Spain, including the Canary Islands, were added to the network. On August 1, 2005, CSA withdrew its Glasgow to Prague service.
The first domestic services were launched in May 2005, with twice-daily flights from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London Stansted (STN), routes which were already operated at much higher frequencies by the much larger low-fare carrier easyJet (U2). In February 2006, however these services were withdrawn, together with plans to serve Bournemouth from Edinburgh.
The airline continued to expand at this time. Flights from STN began in October 2005, although in June 2006, due to low passenger numbers, a new daily service between Glasgow and Amsterdam, replacing the double-daily easyJet service between the two cities, was withdrawn.
Flyglobespan announced its first long-haul service, from Glasgow to Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) in Florida, US on November 1, 2005. The service began in June 2006 and was operated in a three-class configuration by a Boeing 767 aircraft. The three classes included 50-inch sleeper seats,’ gourmet’ food, and wines, including Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class.
Throughout the summer of 2006, services in Alicante and Malaga were upgraded to twice a day and Murcia was served daily. Fuerteventura was added to the schedule for winter 2006. For the summer season, weekly services linking Glasgow with Athens and Heraklion were launched in May 2006.
In June 2006, after 24-hour airport operations were reported there the airline announced plans to operate from ABZ. Tenerife, which commenced in winter 2006, was the first route to operate from Aberdeen. Routes to Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Murcia, Palma and Paphos were also announced and started in the summer of 2007.
Liverpool, with flights to Tenerife, were added to the Flyglobespan network since November 2006. Liverpool’s first link to Hamilton/John C. Munro International Airport was also added in May 2007. Liverpool also began the first long-haul flight to New York (JFK) with a Boeing 757-200 aircraft on a regular basis on the same month.
Sadly, after a long series of service issues, primarily due to reliability problems with the only aircraft on the route, which culminated in numerous massive service delays, Flyglobespan announced in July that it would abandon the route in October of the same year, just six months after the launch of the operation.
In November, flights from Manchester to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada began, with two of the three weekly flights. It also started a three-week service on 4 November 2006 from Manchester to Cape Town, South Africa, but that service was discontinued at the end of the 2007 Summer season.
In May 2007, Flyglobespan launched new services from Hamilton/John C. Munro International Airport (YHM), Canada to destinations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including Doncaster-Sheffield Airport (DSA), the first transatlantic scheduled flight to be operated from the airport. YHM is located right between Toronto and nearby Niagara Falls.
Flyglobespan has launched services with three services a week from Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC) to JFK in May 2007, and twice a week from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). Some flights from NOC to New York made unscheduled refueling stops at a variety of remote locations, including Keflavik, Iceland; Bangor, Maine; Stephenville and St Johns, Newfoundland (although this was an exception because they stopped at a major hub).
These refueling stops were planned because instead of the normal Boeing 757-200, a Boeing 737-800 was used. However, at this time, due to “product and service inconsistency,” its Skytrax ranking was removed and suspended. The airline did not recover its rating.
In July 2008, prior to the fall of Zoom and XL, Globespan lost the right to get credit card repayment protection from the insurance industry. From that point on, instead of paying the usual sums of cash to Globespan, the credit card clearing company E-Clear, whose CEO was Elias Elia, claimed that in some situations, passengers could make valid claims against them via the credit card companies up to six months after taking their flight. E-Clear thus kept a higher sum of money paid to Globespan by them.
By October 2009, the amount of money owed to Globespan by E-Clear was in dispute; Globespan later reported that it was £ 35 million. Following several meetings, Globespan asked E-Clear to agree to an independent audit of the amounts, which E-Clear turned down.
Halcyon Investments, the operating arm of an August 2008 Jersey-based trust fund, also proposed to make a major investment in Globespan at this stage. Investors from Halcyon included Elias Elia. However, questions about the airline’s future resurfaced in December 2009, when several newspapers announced that the carrier had so far failed to secure regulatory approval from Halcyon Investments for the funding package.
And so, on December 16, 2009, Globespan Group PLC, Globespan Airways Limited and Alba Ground Handling Limited ceased operations and were put into administration the next day with the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrator. The last flight, which landed at 2230 local time on December 16, was GSM706 from Hurghada to Glasgow.
On January 19, 2010, following a request from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a High Court judge issued an administrative order against the credit card processing company E-Clear UK, which handled all credit card transactions with Globespan. After E-Clear UK went into administration, Bruce Cartwright, Joint Administrator, PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that it was clear that the funds withheld from the Globespan Group were no longer there.
Featured image: Wiki Commons. Article Sources: Flyglobespan, BBC, The Guardian, BreakingNews.ie.