Eastern Airways has reached an agreement in principal with Sutton Harbour Group confirming that it intends to acquire wholly owned subsidiary, Air Southwest.
The proposed agreement is still subject to regulatory approval, with legal completion expected in October 2010. Completion will see Eastern Airways, the UK’s second largest regional airline, further develop its business and expand its network into the South West of England.
Plymouth based Sutton Harbour Group formed Air Southwest in 2003 and the airline currently operates from 12 airports using a fleet of five aircraft and employs 135 staff.
Eastern Airways is an independent airline based at Humberside with key hubs in Aberdeen, Newcastle and Southampton and a network of scheduled routes primarily serving business communities from 21 airports in the UK, Ireland, Norway and France.
As part of the proposed acquisition, the Air Southwest brand will continue to be used in South West England for the Plymouth, Newquay and Bristol routes with Eastern Airways brand continuing on the parent company’s core routes from the East coast, the Midlands, the North of England and North East Scotland. Eastern Airways’ fleet will also increase to 35 aircraft with the addition of five 50-seat Dash 8 300 turbo-prop aircraft.
The announcement also highlights Eastern Airways’ commitment to provide a continuation of Air Southwest services in the South of England.
In February this year, both airlines formed a strategic partnership, which enabled Air Southwest to join the Global Distribution System and broaden its sales channels for booking flights through the travel trade.
Richard Lake, managing director of Eastern Airways, said: “As market leaders in our respective catchments this deal makes perfect sense for Eastern Airways and gives us an even greater reach across the UK. Air Southwest is well regarded by its customers and we want to ensure we retain that loyalty by continuing to offer excellent service and value for money.
“The integration of the two airlines also enables greater operational flexibility and efficiency as we can look into synergies by bringing both networks and fleets closer together.”
Nigel Godefroy, chief executive of Sutton Harbour Group, said: “Our goal has been to reach an agreement which puts Air Southwest into good hands and I am confident that this deal with Eastern Airways does just that. Being part of a larger airline will bring stability to Air Southwest and that is good news for air travel to and from the far South West, and for Plymouth and Newquay airports.”