|Parent company||British Airways|
|Headquarters||London Stansted Airport
|Key people||Barbara Cassani
Go Fly (styled and trading as Go) was the name of a British low-cost airline, founded by British Airways (BA) in 1998. It operated flights between London Stansted Airport and destinations in Europe. The airline was purchased from BA in a management buy-out backed by the private equity firm 3i in 2001. In 2002 it was bought by its rival EasyJet, and was merged into the airline's operations. Its head office was in the Enterprise House in London Stansted Airport in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.
Bob Ayling, CEO of British Airways, approached EasyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, to ask whether he could visit claiming that he was fascinated by how the Greek entrepreneur had made the budget airline formula work. Haji-Ioannou not only agreed, but allegedly showed Ayling his business plan.
In November 1997 BA announced that, under the project name of Operation Blue Sky, it would launch its own low cost airline in order to meet the changing demand for air travel in Europe. According to Ayling, the new airline would, "quickly become a favourite with the budget traveller" via its pricing scheme and available flights. The new airline would be run separately from British Airways as a wholly owned subsidiary and would compete in the European low-cost carrier market, dominated by Ryanair, EasyJet and Debonair.
Barbara Cassani, who had been British Airways' General Manager in New York and had been credited with turning around the airline's flagging fortunes on the transatlantic market in the early 1990s, was chosen by Ayling to set up the new venture. The airline was named Go Fly Limited in February 1998 following a lengthy debate over how to choose a name that would best suit the positioning of this new airline, which was already facing challenges from EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, among others.
The fleet consisted of Boeing 737s. The first two, 737-300s G-IGOC and G-IGOE, were initially acquired via lease from Philippine Airlines. A fourth plane, a 737-3Q8 G-IGOF was leased in May 1998.
On Friday 22 May 1998, Go flew for the first time from its base at London Stansted Airport to Rome Ciampino. The following afternoon saw the airline's inaugural flight to Milan Malpensa Airport. The Italian start-up and launch of Go's operation was managed by former American Airlines executive Luca Berti. As part of their campaign against Go, Stelios Haji-Ioannou and nine other EasyJet staff booked tickets for the flight, arriving in orange boiler suits. Other early routes were to Copenhagen, Bologna and Lisbon. In July flights to Glasgow were started, then to Munich in November and Venice in December 1998, followed by Málaga, Faro, Bilbao in April 1999 and Madrid.
After leasing three further planes, including one former Air Liberté plane and another ex-British Midland jet, between November 1998 and November 1999 six additional planes were delivered direct from Boeing, leased from GE Commercial Aviation Services bringing the total to 13. Although this was four more than had originally been envisaged, the additional routes helped to spread the overheads. In a successful attempt to stem mounting losses, on June 7, 1999 a significant change in strategy was announced, cutting back on the existing schedules in favour of new routes tapping into the summer holiday market to Alicante, Ibiza and Palma. This was followed by winter schedules targeting skiers travelling to Lyon and Zurich, together with a new route to Prague.
Go was very much the brain child of Bob Ayling and when he left British Airways, Go's future was rendered shaky. In November 2000, BA announced it planned to sell Go, as part of efforts to improve profit levels, coupled with concerns that Go was attracting customers from BA's own services. Estimated gains from the sale fluctuated, and in January 2001 British Airways admitted that its initial estimates may have been incorrect and that they now estimated Go to be worth only £200m. With the revised forecasts, there seemed to be an increase in pressure to sell Go as soon as possible, possibly within two months. Go was sold in June 2001 in a management buyout led by Cassani with the cooperation of private equity firm 3i for £100 million. The airline's management team remained in place.
In December 2001, Go reported that it had carried 57.3% more passengers in December 2001 than in the previous year.
On 16 May 2002, EasyJet announced that it would buy Go for £374 million to expand its own operations. By December 2002, Go operated under the easyJet Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and in April 2003 the airline was absorbed into the easyJet brand. Although it was initially reported that Cassani might seek to block the deal with EasyJet, that did not happen. She did not accept a position with the new entity and in November 2003, Barbara Cassani published Go, An Airline Adventure, which chronicled the airline's existence.
The Go Fleet consisted of the following aircraft before merging with easyJet:
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