TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: FlyGlobeSpan

Photo provided by Ken Fielding/http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Globespan began its history as an Edinburgh tour operator, operating various trips utilizing chartered planes from other airlines in the United Kingdom. The company sought to prove that it was the leader in the traveling industry, specifically in Scotland. To prove this, the company increased charter flights and started their own charter aircraft in 2002 with two Boeing 737-300s, flying to leisure destinations in Spain, France, and Italy. The company found success with using their own aircraft, and decided to start their own low cost, no frills carrier later that year named FlyGlobeSpan.

FlyGlobeSpan started in early 2003 with flights being between the airline’s already established leisure destinations. The no-frills carrier began with mixed success, quickly seeing growth with eastern European destinations as well as the addition of more Boeing 737-300s and the airline’s first Boeing 737-600 as well.

The carrier continued to desire further expansion, even as the price of fuel continued to rise. Domestic flights from London to Scotland and northern United Kingdom were the first destinations offered of several domestic flights. Liverpool and Manchester also appeared on the carrier’s route map, mostly for long haul service. Liverpool would see flights to New York, Tenerife, and Hamilton, Canada on newly acquired Boeing 757s, while the larger city of Manchester saw international flights on Boeing 767s to Cape Town and New York. The carrier also replaced some of the older Boeing 737s, replacing them with newer Boeing 737-700s and -800s.

FlyGlobeSpan’s only operated two liveries throughout its short history. Of the 27 aircraft that flew for the carrier, the majority FlyGlobeSpan aircraft wore the traditional livery of a mostly white fuselage with a red belly. The tail of the airplane was red with the lowercase letter “g” repeated all over the tail in a brighter red and white. The airline’s website “flyglobespan.com” ran the length of the fuselage with the word “fly” in gray and the rest in red. Only two aircraft didn’t wear the traditional livery, a Boeing 757, that instead wore a “Liverpool Airport” sticker on the tail, and a Boeing 737 that wore the traditional livery but in blue, since the aircraft rotated with Oman Air who had a blue livery.

The airline was forced into taking a leave of absence from flying in 2007 when reports surfaced that the carrier was mistreating crew members. The report said that flight crews were operating over safely operatable hours. The carrier also lost its ETOPs certificate, meaning all overseas flights were now inoperable.

The carrier would restructure their crew working hours, but the damage had already been done. The lost revenue from the suspended operations in 2007 meant the company needed loans to operate though 2008. A rising price of fuel coupled with increased competition from fellow low-cost carriers meant that profits that were once made in the early 2000s were now gone, replaced by financial losses as more and more loans were taken out for the carrier to survive.

By 2009, FlyGlobeSpan officially was bankrupt. The airline, although the largest in Scotland, had now £35 million in debt from loans taken out of the previous year and a half. FlyGlobeSpan, out of time and out of money, suspended all service on December 16th, 2009. The airline proved to be a major strain on the overall travel business, and one day after FlyGlobeSpan suspended operations the entire GlobeSpan travel company filed for liquidation. The suspension of FlyGlobeSpan was minimized with Ryanair offering rescue airfare to tend to the 4,000 people left stranded by the Scottish carrier. Most of FlyGlobeSpan’s routes have since been replaced by flights offered through FlyBe or Ryanair. All the airline’s airplanes have moved on to new fleets too, being dispersed around the world. Ultimately the demise of FlyGlobeSpan was one caused by controllable factors, and serves as an important lesson for future low-cost carriers that desire to enter the competitive airline industry.

Ian McMurtry

Ian McMurtry

Ian has been an avgeek since 2004 when he started spotting US Airways Express planes at Johnstown Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He now lives in Wichita and enjoys spotting planes in Kansas City and Wichita as well as those flying at high altitudes over his home. He is a pilot with more than 40 hours of experience behind a Cessna 172, Diamond DA-20, and Piper PA-28. He flies Southwest Airlines on most of his domestic flights and Icelandair when flying to Europe. Ian’s route map spans from Iceland and Alaska in the north to St. Maarten in the south. He is a student at Wichita State University, where he will study aerospace and mechanical engineering.
Ian McMurtry