Airtours Holidays in the UK decided in 1990 that they would start their own 'in-house' Airline under their own brand ' Airtours'. The goal was to have 5 aircraft operating from 3 UK bases by the following summer 1991.
Air Europe and Dan Air were both on shaky ground and the survival of both Airlines was in doubt. Air Europe was the 'in-house' Airline for Intersun Holidays of the ILG Group, Dan Air were not tied to any particular Tour operator but relied heavily on providing charter fights for British Tour Operators. In a last ditch attempt at survival ILG group pulled all the work off Dan Air and brought it' in-house' to try and save costs for the group. Airtours were by far Dan Air's largest customer, but Airtours were worried they may be left with no flights if Dan Air became a casualty of this battle of Charter giants.
Mike Lee former CEO of Cal Air / Novair was recruited and given the task of getting the Airtours Airline up and running and on a £5 million budget.
McDonnell Douglas were very happy to assist and had faith that the operation could be up an running in the short timeframe. In the UK both Paramount and British Island Airways had both collapsed and so there was a pool of Pilots available that could fly the MD83 as both had been operators of the type.
Five crew per aircraft were recruited towards the end of 1990 and start of 1991 and the bases selected for the Aircraft were Manchester , Birmingham and London Stanstead. The Tour Operator owner Airtours PLC was based in a converted Mill in Helmshore Lancashire, so Manchester became the main base of the Airline.
I was on one of the first training courses and we had completed our training before the aircraft had even arrived, we didn't even have uniforms at this point as the final designs hadn't been chosen by the Directors wives.
I was at Manchester when the first Aircraft landed on delivery from McDonnell Douglas. We began training flights for both Pilots and Cabin Crew and flew to Shannon where we took off and landed several times while cabin crew practiced their cabin service , still without uniforms.
It was during this training period the Company picked up some Charter Flights for Manchester United Football Club flying the Team to European matches and it was also at this point ILG and Air Europe went bust.
A quick decision was taken to use the aircraft to ferry Company Reps around European destinations to get contracts signed for Hotel Capacity left vacant by the ILG collapse and this began the massive growth of the Company, but that is another story.
I was on the first Holiday Charter Flight of Airtours International Aviation to Rhodes on March 1991. Fortunately it wasn't a bad omen for the Company, but we had to divert to Munich because a passenger had a suspected heart attack in row 5 just as we were about to serve Breakfast, to add more pressure I remember we had an audiance of the CEO Mike Lee and his wife in row1, The Marketing Director George Markel and the Overseas Director Ton Vaslander and their wives sat just in front. When we landed in Munich we had to refuel, nobody had heard for Airtours International and the CEO had to pay for the fuel with his own credit card. We eventually landed in Rhodes, a Greek Island, 4 hours late to a civic reception and brass band on the tarmac.
Enjoyable times and memories.
Enjoy the photos, this is a Skymarks Premium 'Delta Airlines' 1/100 scale model customised by Ben at GBaviationModels. The registration G-DCAC were the initials of David Crossland and his wife Anne Crossland, he was Chairman of Airtours PLC and his wife, I guess was responsible for the 'Thunderbirds' Cabin Crew uniform Airtours first adopted with the nicknamed 'Thunderbirds' logo.