Manx Airlines takes off into history: End of an era

Manx Airlines final flight to Liverpool (ATP) The familiar red and green livery of Manx Airlines disappeared from the skies several weeks ago – as aircraft colours were changed to those of BA – but the Manx Gaelic greeting stayed until the end. Reporter Philip Thomson was on hand to witness the final Manx Airlines’ flights into Ronaldsway

Manx Airlines has bowed out after nearly 20 years, but its last day of operation proved fate has no respect for ceremony.

The company had arranged for me to join the last flight Manx Airlines flight, the JE308 from Gatwick to Ronaldsway on Saturday night.

However, the BAe 146 due to fly the route was grounded by technical problems – a rear door wouldn’t shut – forcing the airline to charter in a similar aircraft from Titan.

That meant the last scheduled Manx Airlines’ flight would be operated by a non-Manx crew on a non-Manx plane. It also meant that, being a smaller plane with 77 seats compared to 95, I had to surrender my seat.

Undeterred, the company set about arranging for our man to get on another flight so I could at least experience one of the Manx Airlines’ last journeys.

That ended up being the JE329 to Manchester and JE330 back. Of the four flights due in on Saturday it was the first back, making good time to arrive at 8:16pm, almost an hour before the final plane touched down.

In the end, the last plane to land wasn’t the Gatwick flight, but the delayed Birmingham one which touched down at 9:15pm.

Despite the problems it was an emotional 30 minute journey back to the Island from Manchester, the last time "our" airline would ever operate the route.

The Jetstream 41 was full with 30 passengers and as they disembarked in the Island many took the opportunity to thank cabin crew member Lisa Corkish and comment: "It’s very sad."

Just minutes earlier, Lisa, wearing her Manx Airlines’ uniform for the last time, had welcomed the travellers to the Island with the much loved Manx Gaelic greeting, just one of the unique features Manx Airlines’ replacement BA CitiExpress will not retain.

Following the takeover by Bristish Airways last year, and the announcement in February that Manx’s identify would go as our routes became part of a new operation, we have seen staff leave, the planes’ familiar Manx livery be painted over and, on Saturday, the last surviving remnants of Manx, which had served the Island since November 1, 1982, disappear.

As passengers queued to check in at Ronaldsway, BA signs manager Bill Byrne and airport maintenance worker Craig Armstrong were already unwrapping the BA signs which have replaced the Manx.

By the time the Manchester flight touched down they had all but finished the work.

JE330’s flight crew, Captain Ashley Gardner and first officer Howard Smith, ensured the passengers on board knew this was the last time Manx Airlines would fly the route.

"I would like to wish you all a warm welcome to Ronaldsway" said Howard on the tarmac in the Island. "And I would just like to take the opportunity to thank you on behalf of all the crew for flying with Manx Airlines tonight and in all the years previously and I hope to see you all again in the future with BA CitiExpress."

Manx Airlines final flight to Gatwick - BAe 146 of Titan Airways used as G-MIMA developed a technical faultIsle of Man Post marked Manx Airlines’ last day of operation by issuing a commemorative envelope featuring the history of the airline, special stamps and an August 31, 2002 post mark.

The commemorative envelopes travelled to Liverpool and back and each was individually marked with the flight numbers and signed by long-serving Manx Airlines’ Captain Paul Quine.

The limited-edition envelopes are on sale now for £6.50 at the Regent Street, Douglas, post shop and the philatelic bureau.

BA CitiExpress didn’t organise any ceremony to mark the day. But handed every passenger a certificate thanking them for supporting the airline.

However, these commemorative touches could not hide the sad feeling that an airline which has been part of our lives, with its familiar green and red livery, flying the flag for the Island for almost two decades is no more.

At the Manx Aviation and Military Museum, which stayed open late for the final flights, more than 70 people gathered to mark the occasion.

Ivor Ramsden, spokesman for the museum next to the airport, said: "It was very sad to see the airline finish and I dare say at times there were some damp eyes."

"These were just ordinary people, families, couples, who came along. As the last Gatwick flight came in we played Glen Miller’s Moonlight Serenade over the PA. It was all very atmospheric."

Ivor added everyone waited after the Gatwick flight landed to watch the last Manx flight, from Birmingham, touch down.

He added anyone feeling nostalgic can take a trip down memory lane throughout this month as the museum holds a special exhibition about the airline. The exhibition will become a permanent fixture next year when the museum extension is finished.

As a new day dawned on Sunday, flight travel to the Isle of Man entered a new era, with the promise of cheaper fares but the fear more routes may fall.

Ronaldsway now features BA logos and Manx Airlines is but a fond (for most) memory.

The above newspaper article appeared in the Isle of Man Examiner, 3rd September, 2002.