8 August 2002

Tour firm starts budget airline

By Nick Britten

One of the world's leading tour operators joined the budget airline industry yesterday, becoming the first low-cost carrier to offer scheduled flights to Europe.

From October MyTravel, formerly Airtours, will initially fly to five destinations from Birmingham, with fares starting at £19 one-way, and calling itself MyTravelLite.

The decision to join the rapidly expanding market came as its competitors announced that demand for budget airlines was continuing to grow sharply.

EasyJet and Go, which merged recently, carried 61 per cent more passengers last
month compared with a year ago, with more than 1.72 million people flying with them.

Their Irish rival, Ryanair, revealed that it carried 1.45 million passengers in July, a 41 per cent rise on last year. BmiBaby, the other major firm in the sector that opened four months ago, recently reported that it sold its entire yearly sales forecast in the first three months of operation.

The decision by MyTravel will be watched closely by its competitors as the sector's boom shows no sign of abating. They are the first low-cost carrier to operate out of Birmingham International, which in the summer improved its incentive schemes to attract new business.

Tim Jeans, MyTravelLite managing director, said: "The low-cost sector has consistently grown over the last three years by 30 per cent a year and looks like it will continue that way. It is a market that could not and should not be ignored."

Initially planes will fly to Belfast International, Paris, Geneva, Alicante and Malaga, but there are long-term plans for expansion to other locations. The airline will operate 180-seater Airbus A320 aircraft, the first low-cost airline to do so, with the chance for passengers to watch pay-per-view films and television.

Mr Jeans denied that proposals for a new airport in Warwickshire would affect Birmingham.

"I think that hell would have frozen over if Birmingham International Airport closes," he said.