Its name derives from the type of aircraft (named after its engines) that it first flew.
The company's operations originated in 1971 when Art Carpenter formed two companies: Carpenter's Air Services Ltd to fly flowers using contracted aircraft to the UK mainland from Guernsey; and Carpenter's Transport to distribute the flowers on the UK mainland to wholesale markets. In 1975, these two companies became Express Air Freight.
Purchase of aircraft
In 1978, purchased Handley Page Dart Herald aircraft to fly flowers and fresh produce from the Channel Islands to Bournemouth Airport, and consumer goods from the UK via Bournemouth to the Channel Islands. In 1979, the company became Express Air Services and flew contracts for the Royal Mail to the Channel Islands from Bournemouth, Bristol and Liverpool from 1980.
Purchase by Philip Meeson
In 1983, the company changed its name to identify with its regional route, becoming three companies under the Channel Express name, which had the air freight, running of the two Dart Herald aircraft, and the distribution within the UK as separate operations. It was purchased in 1983 by Philip Meeson, becoming Channel Express Group. It was split into Aviation Services and Distribution divisions. In 1985 a third Dart Herald aircraft was bought, which flew an overnight parcels service from Birmingham International Airport to Nuremberg and Hanover.
Channel Express Group Ltd floated on the UK's Unlisted Securities Market (USM) and had seven Super Dart Herald aircraft. In 1989 it bought the first of three Lockheed Electra aircraft, as well as having nine Super Dart Herald aircraft. In 1991, the company changed its name to Dart Group PLC and floated on the London Stock Exchange.
In 1994 it purchased the Spalding-based company Fowler-Welch, a temperature-controlled distribution company. The first of seven Fokker F27 aircraft was purchased in 1994. Its airline group, Channel Express (Air Services) bought its first 257-seater Airbus A-300B4 in 1996. It was converted to become a freighter at BAE Systems in Filton. A southern distribution centre was built in Portsmouth in 1999 under the Channel Express name. The Coolchain distribution company in Kent was bought in 1999. By 2000 the company had 1,500 employees and two divisions (air and freight distribution). In 2001, two Boeing 737 aircraft were purchased with a quick-change facility allowing a freight aircraft to transform into a passenger aircraft in only 30 minutes.
In 2002, four Boeing 737 aircraft were purchased with two becoming 737 QC (Quick change) aircraft and two as passenger aircraft. From February 2003, the Jet2 low-cost airline began flying from Leeds-Bradford Airport to mainland Europe destinations. Fowler-Welch and Coolchain merged to become Fowler-Welch Coolchain Ltd in 2003. Eight Boeing 737-300 aircraft (of which five were passenger aircraft) were purchased in 2003 to bring the total to 14. In 2004, six more Boeing 737-300 passenger aircraft were purchased, and routes from Belfast International Airport started in April and from Manchester Airport in December. In 2005, routes began from Newcastle Airport in October and two Boeing 757-200 aircraft were purchased. In 2006, six more Boeing 757-200 passenger aircraft were bought and the Channel Express Portsmouth distribution base was sold to Ferryspeed C.I. Ltd in June. A package holiday company, Jet2holidays.com, was formed in January 2007.
- "Contacts." Dart Group. Retrieved on 31 December 2011. "Registered Office Dart Group PLC Low Fare Finder House Leeds Bradford International Airport Leeds LS19 7TU United Kingdom"