By Justin Wastnage in London
UK cult rock artist John Otway has confirmed he is to launch Ot Air, chartering an Airbus A340 to accommodate his travelling band of fans following his world tour.
The punk-influenced singer songwriter has built a loyal and increasingly wealthy fan base in recent years through constant touring. He first mooted the idea of chartering an aircraft last year, faced with the realisation of not being able to cover transport costs of a world tour.
The artist, scored a surprise comeback hit in 2002 with the internet download single Bunsen Burner and used the proceeds to pay a deposit of around $100,000 to an unnamed lessor last month to charter the aircraft in October and November for two weeks.
Otway, who has seldom performed outside small venues in the UK, says his rationale for chartering the A340 was because it was "the sexiest aircraft in the world" rather than practical considerations. To fill the remaining seats, he would have to augment his usual entourage of five including band members and roadies, he says. The cost of chartering the aircraft, Otway discloses as "close to a million quid [pounds Sterling]", which will be borne by fare-paying passengers, or "groupies".
The aircraft will carry the "Ot Air" livery (pictured left), the artist hopes, and will depart from Liverpool John Lennon airport on 28 October. The aircraft will then visit New York, Las Vegas, Papeete in French Polynesia, Sydney, Shanghai and Dubai, where Otway will play 600-seater venues, before returning to London on 12 November.
The tour is being organised by UK incentive travel agency CT Travel Groups Conferences & Incentives, which claims the tour is "unique" by combining artist travel and fare-paying passengers. CT Travel says the negotiations with aircraft lessors, airports and hotels has taken "a year of hard work" since Otway first mooted the idea.
It is not unusual for rock stars to charter aircraft when touring, but this aircraft will be operated under a public transportation aircraft operator's certificate, says CT Travel. Fans will pay £1,800 ($3,130) for each sector flown, or a reduced rate of £3,900 for the entire round-the-world trip in the 250 economy seats.
CT Travel aviation director Chris Clapham says around 50% of the seats have already been sold and that bookings have been suspended as another, more well-known artist may support Otway and offer his or her fans places on the tour Airbus. A documentary of the tour is also being planned, he adds.
CT Travel managing director Mark Kempster says the aircraft is currently in airline operation and has been secured for the duration of the contract, but adds that it "would not be relevant" to disclose further details of the aircraft. The aircraft will be configured in a two-class configuration with 20 business class seats available at an extra £3,000 per person.
If the fan-accompanied tour concept is a success, CT Travel plans to expand the market to further music acts.