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OXF-EDI: Varsity Express' Inaugural J-31 Service  
User currently offlinePlymSpotter From Spain, joined Jun 2004, 11611 posts, RR: 60
Posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 11202 times:

The Birth of an Airline



OXF-EDI on Varsity Express’ Inaugural Service




Introduction:


The depths of a recession may seem an unlikely stage from which to launch a new airline into the already crowded UK domestic market, but it’s clear from the start that Martin Halstead is no ordinary entrepreneur. Like many fellow pilots and enthusiasts he dreamed of one day founding his own airline, realising this ambition in 2005 with the inception of Alpha One Airlines. Although that venture quickly turned sour he never relinquished the dream and in early 2010 announced the creation of Varsity Express, a new airline which would launch flights between Oxford and Edinburgh.

Despite persistent criticism and dismissive comments that the venture would fail before it even got off the ground I believed differently and in late January, when their booking engine went live, I purchased a ticket on the inaugural flight. Even though it had only been online for a day or so, I was customer number 43 according to my receipt – a positive sign that I wasn’t the only one who believed this route had potential.



Monday 1st March 2010:


Arriving at London Oxford Airport, better known locally as Kidlington, is a noticeably different experience from practically all other terminals. The entrance to the airport and hanger complex is manned by a guard who promptly produces a clipboard containing the day’s flight manifest as we approach. Despite being relatively new to scheduled flights Oxford airport has made its name and reputation as a channel for business aviation which affords a more personal touch. This outpost is the sole contact many VIP’s will have with ground staff as they make a seamless transition from car to aircraft. The majority of us still have to dream about such luxuries, so my name is crossed off and the barrier raised as we’re given directions to the Oxfordjet terminal building, a short way ahead.



The main reception desk inside the business aviation terminal has been modified on the right-hand side to provide a dedicated airline-style check-in area, staffed today by two helpful representatives who issue my boarding pass. Here at Oxford the last check-in time is 15 minutes before the flight departs and each passenger is permitted 20kg of luggage – a 15kg hold item and a 5kg piece of hand baggage.

Amidst the early morning rays of light cast through the entranceway, Varsity Express’ founder and Managing Director, Martin Halstead, can be seen giving an interview to Ralph Anker of anna.aero.


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It’s evident from the surroundings that this isn’t your standard regional airport. There’s no prefabricated metal seating here; it’s a cut above, used to servicing the demands of those who can afford to fly in style. The refined theme continues as I progress to the departure lounge where some of the other passengers have gathered, although it’s bemusing that amidst such finery the drinks machine still charges you £1.50 for something only just passable as espresso.



Thanks to a frosty start across Oxfordshire the Jetstream is still receiving a thorough coating of de-icing fluid by the ground staff, so I back into a leather chair and watch the intricate, almost dance-like process taking place around the wings and tail, through a wall of floor to ceiling glazing.

Despite the comparatively small size of this fledgling enterprise a considerable media and industry contingent is present to witness the launch, and we are soon escorted over the ramp to the awaiting aircraft where members of the Varsity Express team are ready to field questions and photo opportunities.

Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly G-JIBO, a BAe Jetstream 31 aircraft, that held centre stage over the proceedings this morning, her combined Linksair/Varsity Express colors glinting expectantly in the pale winter sunlight. Initially developed in the 1960’s by Handley Page as the Jetstream 1, the design was resurrected and modernized in the 1980’s by British Aerospace. Recognising the demand for a low capacity, high speed, regional airliner, they proceeded to deliver a total of 386 examples from their factory at Prestwick Airport, Scotland.

From first taking to the skies on June 25th 1986 this particular machine, like any dedicated traveler, set out to see a bit of the world. Initially designated as N415MX, she flew in the United States for Eastern Airlines’ Eastern Metro Express. However, their demise in 1991 heralded its return to BAe in the UK as G-BTYG, until subsequently taking up a new roll in 1993 to operate as OY-SVJ for Billund based Sun-Air of Scandinavia where she remained for the following 13 years. Returning to the UK register she assumed the guise of G-OJSA, flying for Blue Islands, British North West Airlines and most recently Highland Airways before ultimately passing on to Diamond Air Charter and Linksair, who would today be operating her as G-JIBO on behalf of Varsity Express.


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So, what of the man who brought this all about? Martin Halstead, founder and Managing Director of Varsity Express, is a budding young entrepreneur who first landed in the public spotlight back in 2005 with the launch of Alpha One Airways, when he was just 19. Proclaimed by some as a ‘Baby Branson’, his first venture collapsed after just six weeks in the air. I asked him if he felt there was any kind of lingering resentment being directed towards his new venture, considering comments posted on networks like Pprune?

Alpha One was a long time ago, we had a key investor pull out unexpectedly and that lead to the collapse. Varsity Express is a completely different and well-funded proposition - we’re never going to be the next Ryanair and we don’t want to be either. The regional industry is a booming one at the moment and we’re a small, niche operator planning slow and sustained growth. I think it’s just a matter of time before we see more airports like Oxford and Gloucestershire. They [Pprune] just don’t seem to like me over there.

What were the circumstances which lead to the creation of Varsity Express?

I had just been made redundant [in Autumn 2009], when I received a call from a group of property owners who were looking to invest in an airline. They asked me if I was willing to help them.

It’s refreshing to see somebody like yourself, who loves aviation and flying with a passion, managing an airline. Do you still enjoy it as a hobby?

Sometimes there’s nothing better than to just head down to the end of the runway and watch the planes for a while. I love flying and sometimes I check out the forums [Airliners.net, Pprune etc..] – I’ll look out for your review in the Trip Reports section.


.


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With the departure time almost upon us the session is brought to a close as Mr Halstead stands next to his mother in front of the steps and gives a brief speech, thanking those assembled for attending. To commemorate the launch of Varsity Express and to christen the aircraft in the process, a bottle of Champaign is sprayed merrily over its registration. When asked if his mother’s presence had been planned in order to play up to the ‘Baby Branson’ image (Branson himself having appeared with his mother several times) Halstead dismissed the idea.

It’s just a coincidence, it’s the only time I really get to see her.



Formalities over, it was time to commence operation, so whipping the camera back into my bag I climb the stairs of the little Jetstream to take my seat, 3A, in the middle of the cabin. Sitting down I see that a combination of ice crystals, fluid and dew have conspired to drape over the fuselage, presenting an impressionist blur of the reality outside and resulting in most windows being of little visual use until after take-off. However, there are much more interesting things to be looking at; like most small prop planes the Jetstream 31 has an open cockpit, through which I’m able to observe their preparations for the flight ahead.


OXF-EDI London Oxford Airport to Edinburgh International

Carrier: Varsity Express (Operated by Linksair)
Flight: LNQ 601
Aircraft: BAe Jetstream 31
Registration: G-JIBO
Date of First Flight: 25.06.1986
Seat: 3A
Block Departure Time: 08:00
Take off Time: 08:22
Block Arrival Time: 09:30
Touchdown Time: 09:42
Distance Flown: 297 miles
Total Flying Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Fare: £49.00 one way


It’s fair to say that nicer weather couldn’t be wished for; the morning being bright and mild compared to the damp and distinctly dismal conditions of previous days. Weather which is also ideal for flight training. Like bees to honey, the students at Oxford Aviation Academy had woken up, seen the conditions and decided on a day’s flying, with the result that Varsity’s flight is now dropping behind schedule as we wait in a line of Senecas for take-off clearance. We’re No.2 for take-off now and the Seneca ahead has just surrendered its position, meaning we can now enter the active backtrack to the threshold without further delay.

The pilots guide the aircraft onto the centerline of runway 19 ready for take-off, pausing briefly as a slight trim adjustment is made. Everything’s set; the final act is to ease the throttle levers gently forwards, accelerating the aircraft down the tarmac until we slip effortlessly skywards having used around 900m of the available 1,319m strip.

Varsity Express just became a reality and, glancing sideways, I can see a content Mr Halstead as the flight climbs towards the requested cruise altitude of 16,000ft.



The Jetstream is an aircraft I’ve flown in several times previously, although up until this point the flights have been short sectors with a maximum duration of less than 40 minutes. So before stepping aboard today I did harbor reservations about how comfortable a flight lasting more than double this block time would be. There’s certainly no escaping the fact that noise levels onboard Varsity Express’ aircraft are higher than those experienced whilst travelling by train, and that there is significantly less room to move about the cabin. Yet, in my opinion, these negatives are comfortably outweighed by a flying time which is just a quarter of that for the same distance over land.

Comparing the four options available to consumers wishing to travel between Oxford and Edinburgh, it’s clear that the plane offers the shortest journey, even when factoring in time to travel between the city centers and airports at both ends. Taking two different approaches; booking discount tickets in advance and a flexible ticket, flying is the most expensive option on both counts. It is however one of only a few direct options available and considering the time saved appears to offer excellent value for money.



As I continue to chat with other passengers our communication isn’t inhibited by the ambient noise. Meanwhile my legs are treated to a pitch of 32 inches, even if it doesn’t feel like quite that much in the A and C seats due to the curve of the fuselage, it’s still on a par with CrossCountry Trains’ Voyagers which predominantly ply the overland route to Scotland. The seat comfort itself is pretty average. Aside from a few wear and tear marks the presentation of the cabin is certainly commendable, not that anything other than immaculate should be expected for such an important event.


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The ticket price includes complementary in-flight refreshments. These are served by a single stewardess who works her way through the cabin from front to rear, taking orders and reappearing very promptly from the galley with my request for a coffee, along with a packet of shortbread fingers. This is nice, but the availability of a wider selection of refreshments in the terminal back at Oxford would have been equally pleasant, especially if the flight should be delayed for any reason.



With the refreshment service completed Mr Halstead passes through the cabin, taking time to talk to each passenger individually. Further into the flight we have another opportunity to talk about the airline, specifically what comes next; despite the early addition of Newcastle flights, a conservative three to four month period of sustained growth is planned before Varsity Express considers taking further steps. Although no firm plans have been drawn up for future destinations, the possibility of commencing a leisure orientated service from Oxford to Newquay Cornwall Airport is mentioned – the possibility being to focus on holiday makers and the sizable second homes market present in the far South West. Without going into the complexities of crewing and the cost of making extra staff available, it would certainly make sense to increase utilisation of the Jetstream by giving it further work during the day.

Turning to look back out of the window I’m surprised to see that the flight has already left England, and minutes later commences its descent into Edinburgh. Down below, the snowy Pentland Hills make a beautiful sight as the Jetstream skirts a wide arc over the Firth of Forth, providing a great view over the city itself. Establishing the approach to runway 24, it touches down nimbly at 09:42 to record a flying time of just 80 minutes. I get the impression that I’m not alone in being impressed at the weather and conditions for this time of year – I don’t recall so much as a single bump having interrupted our course throughout the entire flight, whilst both the take off and touchdown were textbook.


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Upon exiting the runway we’re not heading towards Edinburgh’s main terminal as might be expected, but taxi instead down the mothballed runway 12/30 towards Greer Aviation’s executive terminal. You may be forgiven for thinking that this is a one-off PR stunt to woo those reporting on the event, but you’d be wrong. In a bold and potentially genial move, Varsity Express has chosen to operate scheduled commercial services between two executive, fixed base operations. This I believe is a first in the UK and could well be the way forward to gain market share in business orientated markets. It appears the decision was made fairly recently and is likely to be a major incentive to attract O/D traffic away from other forms of transport as well as from other carriers flying between the regions, especially once the service increases to double daily in both directions.



After disembarking Robert Greer, left, Director of Greer Aviation at Edinburgh Airport, shakes hands with Varsity Express Managing Director Martin Halstead, right, as they stand with the flight crew who have just completed the inaugural service from Oxford.


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At this point passengers are presented with two options; to be driven by minibus to the main passenger terminal where the public transport interchange is located, or to exit directly from the executive terminal, the same choices being applicable in reverse should I be arriving for a flight. Choosing the executive terminal, I proceed into the modern and spacious lounge which doubles today as a reception room. The use of the executive terminal may well be beneficial, but to me the wording and information currently displayed on the Varsity website appears vague and slightly confusing regarding where the various facilities are located, especially to those who aren’t frequent travelers.


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Although this flight has now reached its destination, the aircraft will remain sitting idle on the ground for the next seven and a half hours. However, at the beginning of April a second daily flight begins and its utilisation will more than double.

The marketing potential of today’s event had obviously been noted, presenting an ideal opportunity to promote tourism via the new air link, so a guided tour around Edinburgh has been organised by Visit Scotland and Varsity Express to demonstrate its attraction to the media present.

Beginning as an informative rolling tour through the suburbs and new town, we make the first stop at Calton Hill, which affords a panoramic view over Edinburgh city centre to the South, whilst Leith and its docks spread out North to meet the Firth. Next stop is the Royal residence, Holyrood Palace, and the Scottish Parliament opposite, before moving onwards through the old town. A pause is made in Grassmarket to recall some of the many hangings which took place here, before continuing through the historic streets to reach Edinburgh’s most iconic and prominent landmark – its Castle.


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With my FlyBe flight onwards to Birmingham departing at 15:00, the time has unfortunately arrived for me to return to the airport, as I then have to travel overland to Plymouth by train. Whilst it’s a shame to leave early, I have other commitments to attend to, especially considering that I’ve effectively taken the three previous days off. So, wishing Martin Halstead and Varsity Express success for the future, I take my leave and head for the airport bus which will whisk me back out to Turnhouse in just under half an hour.



© Dan Gaston & Annthiea Photography
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you and I hope you have enjoyed reading about the first flight of the UK’s latest new airline. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions or comments.


Dan  


...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...
29 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineFlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31
Reply 1, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 11099 times:

Hi Dan,

Great report about an inaugural flight and on a new airline as well, that's a great double whammy! I've been looking at trying Varsity Express as well, but the schedules aren't very good at least for a day trip. Maybe later on when they add NCL to the mix, the EDI-NCL sector sounds like a nice little flight.

They seem to be refreshingly different, I sure wish they will manage during these hard times!


User currently offlineBrewox From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2008, 29 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 11043 times:

Well Done Dan,

Was hoping to be on one of the first flights myself but work commitments dictated otherwise.

I think we all wish them well, apart fron NCL, do they have any plans for further airports, maybe you own part of the world?

Andrew


User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1091 posts, RR: 31
Reply 3, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 11012 times:

Hi Dan,

Superb report. Really most enjoyable and also a route and carrier that I was completely ignorant about... Pictures good quality and it seemed the journey was well worth it...

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
Despite persistent criticism and dismissive comments that the venture would fail before it even got off the ground

This negativism is very typical nowadays - really unproductive and negative(obviously) - I hope it does brilliantly

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
It’s evident from the surroundings that this isn’t your standard regional airport. There’s no prefabricated metal seating here; it’s a cut above

Looks plush

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
drinks machine still charges you £1.50 for something only just passable as espresso.

Indeed, it wouldn't hurt Varsity to subsidise a coffee facility. Just like the thermoses in the Greer aviation terminal. A good flask of coffee and tea takes 4 minutes to make, and costs no more than £3 at cost price - a simple offering that means alot when your a business traveller paying a higher-end fare.

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
a bottle of Champaign

The French will be spitting blood at that spelling!

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
Fare: £49.00 one way

Not awful at all

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
Comparing the four options available to consumers wishing to travel between Oxford and Edinburgh, it’s clear that the plane offers the shortest journey

Many thanks for this illistration. I would say that was quite a realisitic set of results. Of course, there is always a cheaper way e.g. Megabus to London (£2), then a train ticket (Advance fares as low as £17 to Edinburgh) but that is only for real scrimpers... I think the regional 'thing' will take off too.

Quoting PlymSpotter (Thread starter):
Although this flight has now reached its destination, the aircraft will remain sitting idle on the ground for the next seven and a half hours.

Perhaps better utilisation to start this service off? Just seems a waste to have pilots and FA hanging around... What do you think heir next route? Perhaps Newquay isn't too bad an idea...

Good approach of Firth... always nice on a good day.

Cheers again dude!



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinePlymSpotter From Spain, joined Jun 2004, 11611 posts, RR: 60
Reply 4, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 10935 times:

Many thanks for the comments so far.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 1):
Maybe later on when they add NCL to the mix, the EDI-NCL sector sounds like a nice little flight.

A lot of people I know have booked this flight, purely to log the airline and type. As you say, for the enthusiast it should be possible to arrive at EDI before the flight departs back to OXF once they serve it double daily.

Quoting Brewox (Reply 2):
I think we all wish them well, apart fron NCL, do they have any plans for further airports, maybe you own part of the world?

As I say, NQY has been suggested, but that is far from concrete.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
This negativism is very typical nowadays - really unproductive and negative(obviously) - I hope it does brilliantly

I agree. Jealousy plays a part in some people's abject criticism I feel - it's every enthusiasts dream, and he's gone out and is living it.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
The French will be spitting blood at that spelling!

But a city in America is very happy  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
Many thanks for this illistration. I would say that was quite a realisitic set of results. Of course, there is always a cheaper way e.g. Megabus to London (£2), then a train ticket (Advance fares as low as £17 to Edinburgh) but that is only for real scrimpers... I think the regional 'thing' will take off too.

Indeed, you can just imagine the executive type on Megabus! 
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
What do you think heir next route? Perhaps Newquay isn't too bad an idea...

I think NQY isn't a bad choice at all for a summer only route, if they go down that line. I have roots in both locations and the number of people who live and work around Oxford/M4/M40 area and own second homes in the far South West is very high. Typically the drive takes 4-5 hours when it's quiet and up to 7 when it's busy.


Dan  



...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...
User currently offlineDelboy From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2001, 725 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 10793 times:

So, that's where Bradley Branning went!!

This will be totally lost on anyone outside the UK, so my apologies.


User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1162 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 10702 times:

Baboo just started flying from Geneva to Oxford. Great reading. Thanks.

User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1091 posts, RR: 31
Reply 7, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 10656 times:

Plym,

£49 1hr20 flight - fair dos. However, I'm inclined to think the £39 fare EDI-NCL for 30 mins is a little steep. I'll probably take it for the novelty BUT!... Its practically less useful, it won't serve to meet connections in NCL. First Class Rail travel is a little over £18 and takes around about 1.5hrs... Perhaps £25 would fill the plane better...

You do get access to Greer lounge I guess... Does this mean when taking a flight out of EDI you report to the main terminal, or the Greer Aviation area? And how was the lounge?

Sorry for this rebuke of questions

Luke



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinePlymSpotter From Spain, joined Jun 2004, 11611 posts, RR: 60
Reply 8, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 10597 times:

Quoting Delboy (Reply 5):
This will be totally lost on anyone outside the UK, so my apologies.

Or anyone who doesn't watch Eastenders  
Quoting lychemsa (Reply 6):
Baboo just started flying from Geneva to Oxford. Great reading. Thanks.

Thank you.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 7):

£49 1hr20 flight - fair dos. However, I'm inclined to think the £39 fare EDI-NCL for 30 mins is a little steep. I'll probably take it for the novelty BUT!... Its practically less useful, it won't serve to meet connections in NCL. First Class Rail travel is a little over £18 and takes around about 1.5hrs... Perhaps £25 would fill the plane better...

I think this is the point - every seat sold on the EDI-NCL sector is one less seat available on EDI-(NCL)-OXF. EDI-OXF and NCL-OXF are the markets where you'll experience decent yields, so I expect any traffic carried on EDI-NCL is just a bonus.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 7):
You do get access to Greer lounge I guess... Does this mean when taking a flight out of EDI you report to the main terminal, or the Greer Aviation area? And how was the lounge?

You can do either. The lounge was comfortable and modern, with decent business facilities.


Dan  



...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...
User currently offlineIH8BY From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 1141 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 10429 times:

Dan,

Many thanks for posting this trip report and doing what I'm too reluctant to do - I'd love to do a flight ex-OXF, but somehow didn't have the guts to fork out £50 for a flight with an airline I wasn't sure would make it off the ground - especially if I wasn't planning to go somewhere already. If I was ever going to do a flight ex-Kidlington, it'd probably be NCL as I have ties to the North East that I don't to Scotland, and a discounted fare wouldn't be much different from the train fare. It'd also give me my first domestic flight!

Really interested to see your shots inside the airport - I've visited it only once, and that was as a cub scout to go and look at the police helicopter! Also good to see that they treated you well.



Have you ever felt like you could float into the sky / like the laws of physics simply don't apply?
User currently offlineDunaA320 From UK - England, joined Feb 2009, 613 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 10198 times:

Excellent report Dan. I really liked your write up. Nice to see a new airline, best of luck to them!

Some brilliant photos, as always.

Cheers for posting.

Matt


User currently offlinePalmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1221 posts, RR: 17
Reply 11, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 10180 times:

Great report and pics - thanks for sharing. So amazing to see such clear weather too !

Hope the venture is a success.

Thanks again

P/J



Eastern - Number One To The Sun
User currently offlineba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8493 posts, RR: 55
Reply 12, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 10076 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Nice report Dan - plan to try them out myself later in the year, need a J31 in the log book  

Cheers

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlineFLIEGER67 From France, joined Sep 2003, 5133 posts, RR: 55
Reply 13, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 9995 times:

Hi, Dan,

well done, great style and pictures.

Some of the reviewers here talked internal about checking Varsity,
so that was a real good insight.

Thanx for posting and greetings,
Markus (FLIEGER67)



Next: How to deliver a present in style!.
User currently offlineairbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4253 posts, RR: 51
Reply 14, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 9959 times:

Hi Dan,

thanks for this ride. Really interesting to follow your experience, and I envy you for flying that 'hard to get' Jetstream 31!
Good pics, compliments to the photographer. And as mentioned by others, this airline might expect some more a.netters later in the year  

Regards,
Eric



"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
User currently offlineBA777 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2001, 2173 posts, RR: 7
Reply 15, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 9857 times:

Excellent report, wish them all the best from my local OXF  

Wonder if Martin has any FO jobs going for a recent ATPL graduate!


User currently offlineLarshjort From Denmark, joined Dec 2007, 1429 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 9833 times:

Looks very interesting, especially the use of business aviation facilities And nice to see some pictures from Edinburgh, I went there last fall nd it was fantastic.

/Lars



139, 306, 319, 320, 321, 332, 34A, AN2, AT4, AT5, AT7, 733, 735, 73G, 738, 739, 146, AR1, BH2, CN1, CR2, DH1, DH3, DH4,
User currently offlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6495 posts, RR: 55
Reply 17, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 9400 times:

Very nice report and fascninating to be a part of a inaugural flight of a new airline!

Great pitures as always! I hope they do well.

I used to work at the ramp at Stockholm-Bromma and serviced the Sun-Air J31s there, this was in the fall of 1992 so I may have serviced this very aircraft.

The777Man



Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....CI, MU, LX and LH 777s
User currently offlinezonks From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 166 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 9366 times:

Interesting stuff, reminds me a bit of Porter in Canada with the small terminal at the airport, nice lounge that is available to all who have a ticket and, of course, the prop plane. I wonder if the founder had looked to Porter as a model and/or inspiration.

User currently offlinemockney From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2007, 57 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 9087 times:

Fascinating report on a great looking service.

What's the situation for security checks and passenger screening at Oxford?


User currently offlinenqyguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 8849 times:

Great report Dan. As a few others have said, its great to see an airline emerge from the recent bad economy.. especially after the loss of many carriers.

Christian.


User currently offlinePlymSpotter From Spain, joined Jun 2004, 11611 posts, RR: 60
Reply 21, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 8473 times:

Thank you again for the replies and comments  
Quoting IH8BY (Reply 9):

Many thanks for posting this trip report and doing what I'm too reluctant to do - I'd love to do a flight ex-OXF, but somehow didn't have the guts to fork out £50 for a flight with an airline I wasn't sure would make it off the ground - especially if I wasn't planning to go somewhere already. If I was ever going to do a flight ex-Kidlington, it'd probably be NCL as I have ties to the North East that I don't to Scotland, and a discounted fare wouldn't be much different from the train fare. It'd also give me my first domestic flight!

Thank you. I know a lot of people felt the same, but knowing how badly overcrowded the UK trains are and how relatively affluent the market is at both points, I thought it was going to be a good route. Hopefully it'll still be going strong this time next year.

Quoting DunaA320 (Reply 10):
Excellent report Dan. I really liked your write up. Nice to see a new airline, best of luck to them!

Some brilliant photos, as always.

Thanks Matt, it's very good to see another UK airline, especially in the current climate.

Quoting Palmjet (Reply 11):
Great report and pics - thanks for sharing. So amazing to see such clear weather too !

Hope the venture is a success.

No problem and thank you   The weather really couldn't have been better - it's weeks since I'd seen that odd ball shaped thing in the sky.

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 12):
Nice report Dan - plan to try them out myself later in the year, need a J31 in the log book

Thanks Mark, it would be a good combination of new type and new carrier. Unless you head to the far reaches of Scotland I think the only other opportunity would be the Welsh Airlink, but that means a day return unless you fancy a long rail journey from Anglesey.

Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 13):
well done, great style and pictures.

Some of the reviewers here talked internal about checking Varsity,
so that was a real good insight.

Thanx for posting and greetings,
Markus (FLIEGER67)

Thank you Markus, I've not used this style for trip reports before as it's a little different and I must say more difficult to accomplish (first person present, non durational), but I've been using it for some other projects recently and thought the style would fit for an event like this. Glad it provided you with an insight.

Quoting airbuseric (Reply 14):
thanks for this ride. Really interesting to follow your experience, and I envy you for flying that 'hard to get' Jetstream 31!
Good pics, compliments to the photographer. And as mentioned by others, this airline might expect some more a.netters later in the year

Thanks Eric, yes I get the feeling a lot of enthusiasts are keen to fly this route. A number I have spoken to on various forums have already booked and many more intend to.

Quoting BA777 (Reply 15):
Excellent report, wish them all the best from my local OXF

Wonder if Martin has any FO jobs going for a recent ATPL graduate!

Thank you, maybe you should keep an eye on their website for jobs  
Quoting Larshjort (Reply 16):
Looks very interesting, especially the use of business aviation facilities And nice to see some pictures from Edinburgh, I went there last fall nd it was fantastic.

Thanks Lars, it's very interesting indeed. I believe there are a few small North American airlines who do a similar thing, and it does really add to the experience. It may well be enough to tempt people with FF perks away from the mainline carrier on BHX/LON-EDI.

Quoting The777Man (Reply 17):
Very nice report and fascninating to be a part of a inaugural flight of a new airline!

Great pitures as always! I hope they do well.

I used to work at the ramp at Stockholm-Bromma and serviced the Sun-Air J31s there, this was in the fall of 1992 so I may have serviced this very aircraft.

Thank you, it was a great day. I've travelled on quite a few inaugurals now; this was my second of an airline and certainly a nicer experience than WizzAir Ukraine was! I think SunAir received the aircraft in 1993 so you might have been a year too early, but historical dates like that can be out a bit.

Quoting zonks (Reply 18):
Interesting stuff, reminds me a bit of Porter in Canada with the small terminal at the airport, nice lounge that is available to all who have a ticket and, of course, the prop plane. I wonder if the founder had looked to Porter as a model and/or inspiration.

Thanks, it's certainly on a smaller scale than Porter, but you never know. Personally I'd say the emphasis on the executive lounge originates from the founder's time flying with Blue Islands - they operate a similar policy where all passengers have acess to the business lounge at JER, GCI and possible other airports.

Quoting mockney (Reply 19):
Fascinating report on a great looking service.

What's the situation for security checks and passenger screening at Oxford?

Thank you. They have a full passenger screening area which puts many other regional UK airports to shame.

Quoting nqyguy (Reply 20):
Great report Dan. As a few others have said, its great to see an airline emerge from the recent bad economy.. especially after the loss of many carriers.

Thanks Christian, yes there's not many phoenixes rising from the large pile of ashes, but it's good to see at least one emerge. Hopefully they are a success and more are to come.


Dan  



...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...
User currently offlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6495 posts, RR: 55
Reply 22, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 8334 times:

Quoting PlymSpotter (Reply 21):
I think SunAir received the aircraft in 1993 so you might have been a year too early, but historical dates like that can be out a bit.

It's probably correct; it must have been another J31 from Sun-Air that I serviced.

Looking forward to more trip reports from you.

The777Man



Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....CI, MU, LX and LH 777s
User currently offlineContact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14
Reply 23, posted (4 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 8061 times:

Hi Dan,

fantastic report and great pictures! I had heard about this service and was hoping to read about it here some time. Now it was your report about the inaugural flight. Thanks a lot for the additional information about the airline and Martin Halstead - very interesting indeed.

Edinburgh is a great city - and probably even better with the fantastic weather you had.

Regards
Christoph


User currently offlinePlymSpotter From Spain, joined Jun 2004, 11611 posts, RR: 60
Reply 24, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 7724 times:

Quoting The777Man (Reply 22):
Looking forward to more trip reports from you.

I'm trying to fit writing them in around University work, so watch this space.  
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 23):
fantastic report and great pictures! I had heard about this service and was hoping to read about it here some time. Now it was your report about the inaugural flight. Thanks a lot for the additional information about the airline and Martin Halstead - very interesting indeed.

Thanks Christoph, it was a great day and I was glad to have shared the event with readers, as it appears I am a member of a somewhat exclusive 'club' now;

Quoting Varsity Express Website:



Varsity Express regrettably announce as of 3 o'clock today March 8th 2010 the suspension of scheduled services on their Oxford to Edinburgh route.



The reason for this suspension is due to operational issues between Varsity Air Services Ltd and the airline and AOC holder who have been contracted to operate the Jetstream 31 type on our behalf and that was being used on the route. All further ticket sales have been suspended until further notice. All passengers effected by the suspension of service either have been or are currently being informed of the situation.



The policy of Varsity Air Services Ltd has always been to protect the interests of its passengers at all times and therefore the company from the onset of ticket sales entered into a voluntary passenger revenue protection scheme involving an Escrow agent account. All passenger revenue relating to flights not completed is protected by this scheme independently and all money relating to un-flown revenue can be refunded in full if necessary.



The board of Varsity Air Services Ltd are in current negotiation with potential aircraft operators and AOC holders who could provide the operational capability required to allow the resumption of services, on what has already proved to be a very popular, viable and sustainable route. The board are hopeful that Varsity Air Services Ltd will be able to resume full operational services in the very near future. For further information contact the Varsity call centre on 0871 644 0450.

Unfortunately the airline has now failed, which is a great shame as it's left a lot of people stuck. I won't go into particulars, but it would appear that Linksair, operator of the flights, were not paid. I hope too many A.netters aren't affected by this. Still, it was nice to fly with a new airline and it's certainly an experience I'll remember. I wish Linksair success for the future as they are still operating.


Dan  



...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...
25 Post contains images LH4116 : Hello Dan, great report! Great to see an Inaugural flight, report on the forum. It was a bit of a while ago. Varsity Express look like a nice niche ai
26 jmc757 : A great shame indeed. I hope nobody who'd taken up his First Officer job offer has yet handed over their £15,000. I know there is generally a lot of
27 Post contains images PlymSpotter : Thanks Jonas, no there aren't too many inaugural flight reports on the forum, although I did post one a year or so ago covering WizzAir Ukraine's fir
28 Post contains images BA777 : Shame about the news
29 lukeyboy95 : Hi Dan - What a pain in the arse that this was such a short lived venture. It makes me have mixed feelings; on one hand it is a terrible shame to see
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