Boeing 757-236 G-CPEV (c/n 29943/871) seen landing at Manchester Airport on 24Aug04
First Choice was purchased by TUI (announced 19Mar07), effective in 2008. Taken over on 01May08 into Thomsonfly's AOC, aircraft assets were transferred during Oct. 2008, keeping its marketing and operational identities until 01Nov08 when First Choice Airways was formally merged into Thomson Airways.
Thomsonfly traces its roots to its parent airline, Britannia Airways, while origins of First Choice goes back to Air 2000 (1986-2003).
The airline started operations on 11 April 1987, launched by the Owners Abroad Group under the name Air 2000 (ICAO=AMM), with two Boeing 757 aircraft and a flight from Manchester to Malaga. The fleet doubled a year later, with one aircraft being based at Glasgow International Airport. In the same year, the airline set up a subsidiary in Canada, to be called Air 2000 Airline Ltd. This subsidiary lasted only a few days before the Canadian government suspended its licence. The second attempt was more successful and became Canada 3000.
Long haul services to Mombasa in Kenya were introduced during the 1988/89 season. The 757s were re-equipped for extended range and flights to the United States began in 1989. The airline was granted a licence for scheduled operations by the CAA in 1992, which commenced in 1993, initially between London Gatwick and Paphos, in Cyprus.
Expansion saw new bases in the UK established, with Dublin becoming the airline's first overseas hub in 1996. Leisure International Airways was fully integrated after the acquisition by First Choice of Unijet in June 1998. This included the entire fleet of aircraft, and an order for four Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which First Choice immediately cancelled in favour of the rival Boeing 767-300 aircraft. Air 2000 received a new colour scheme which is still in use, however in March 2004 the Air 2000 branding was removed and First Choice Airways branding added.
The airline carried 6.5 million passengers during 2002. The 2005 total was 6.0 million - fifth highest passenger figures of any UK airline. In 2004 it announced plans to refurbish another six Boeing 767-300 aircraft to expand its long haul operations. The airline was the first in the UK to use the Boeing 777-style interior on their 767 fleet. The company now has six aircraft flying long haul in 2007, in a two class layout, 63 Premium, 195 Economy. All seats feature Panasonic seat back entertainment and mood lighting in Star Class Premier.
On 23 April 2007, First Choice confirmed it is to close its bases at London Luton Airport and Cardiff from 1 November 2007, however due to the merger with Thomsonfly who also operate from these bases, the combined airline will still operate from these bases. First Choice Airways is to establish a new permanent base at Exeter Airport.
A First Choice Airbus A321 in Air2000 livery landing at Bristol International Airport, England. (2003) A First Choice Airbus A320 at Manchester Airport, England. (2006)In September 2007, First Choice and the tourism arm of TUI merged to form TUI Travel PLC. On 1 May 2009 Thomsonfly and First Choice Airways (which will cease to be an airline from 1st November 2008) will be amalgamated and rebranded as Thomson Airways.
Fleetlist First Choice Airways from JP Airline Fleets 2008
Aerotransport Data Base (ATDB)
JP Airline Fleets 2008/2009