Flying Colours will begin absorbing its sister charter carrier Caledonian Airways in November, with the two airlines to officially become one next summer. A rebranding of the entire Thomas Cook travel group, which owns Flying Colours, is expected to be revealed early next month.
The merger follows the take-over by Thomas Cook of Carslon Leisure Group, owner of Caledonian, which was cleared by monopoly watchdogs earlier this year. The Caledonian brand will gradually be eliminated from the beginning of this year's winter programme. All operations will be combined under a single air operator's certificate by the end of next March.
Flying Colours has initiated a fleet rationalisation plan which will begin at the end of this year's summer programme with the retirement of Caledonian's four ageing 390-seat Lockheed L-1011 TriStars, and the termination of wet-leases of four more TriStars from Air Atlanta Icelandic. Up to five new aircraft, including three Boeing 757-200s will be delivered next year. The three additional 757s will see the combined fleet totalling 28 aircraft - one Airbus A300B4, 10 Airbus A320s, 15 Boeing 757-200s and two McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s.
A longer-term fleet plan is being finalised, with a number of aircraft types under consideration. Flying Colours, which was launched in 1997, had been a predominantly Boeing operator before acquiring A320s through the merger with Airworld/Sun World last year. With its preference for the US manufacturer, Flying Colours has been examining both the Boeing 757-300 and 777 for some time, but the acquisition of additional A320s through the Caledonian take-over may now enhance Airbus Industrie's prospects at the airline.
Caledonian started life as a Scottish airline which was merged with British United Airways in 1970 to form British Caledonian (BCAL). This airline was taken over by British Airways in 1988, and the Caledonian Airways brand was adopted by the airline's charter/inclusive tour division, British Airtours. This division was sold to UK charter company Inspirations in 1995, which was later absorbed into the Carlson group.