Skyservice Airlines was a relatively minor Canadian charter airline in the 1990s so it is somewhat surprising that it had the honour of operating the first North American A330. The airline was founded by Russell Payson in 1994. Payson already had Sky Service FBO, which had been an air ambulance and corporate jet service.
His new charter airline took advantage of the traditional seasonal shift between the UK and Canada whereby British charter airlines, faced with more capacity than they needed in the off season, leased aircraft to Canadian airlines, who could use them to service the demand for sun filled vacations in Florida and the Caribbean. The idea behind the creation of Skyservice's competitor Canada 3000 had been for exactly this reason fuelled by the UK charter airline Air 2000.
The Canadian charter scene was in something of a flux during this period. The end of the 80s and early 90s had seen the failure of several long-standing Canadian airlines due in part to the economic downturn caused by the Gulf War. Wardair had been swallowed into the new Canadian Airlines in 1989, Worldways had gone bankrupt in 1990 and Nationair Canada followed them in 1993. In their wake new charter airlines like Canada 3000 and Royal Aviation began services. They were joined by Skyservice.
The initial equipment were a pair of Monarch Airlines A320s leased in October and November 1994. G-MPCD became C-FTDU and G-OZBB became C-FTDW. They would seasonally take up these registrations over the next four or five years.
Skyservice's initial customer was Sunquest Vacations but by offering a superior product new customers were gained in the form of Conquest Vacations and Signature Vacations. Skyservice's first owned aircraft joined the fleet in January 1995 as C-GTDC. This frame would typically be leased out to Airtours in the summer months.
By the end of 1995 a fourth A320 was in use, this time leased from the UK charter airline Airworld as C-FWOR. The airline was obviously successful as new A320s continued to join including its 2nd own aircraft, an ex-Air Inter bird leased from ILFC that became C-GTDB in October 1997.
By this time Skyservice was operating long haul transatlantic charters having leased the 1995 build A330-322 C-FBUS from ILFC in June 1997 for 42 months. The aircraft had originally been D-AERJ with LTU of Germany. Fitted out in a 363 seat configuration C-FBUS was used for services from Toronto to destinations such as Athens, Paris and Barcelona. Skyservice was rightfully proud of the coup in taking delivery of the first North American A330 and had the titles emblazoned on the side of the aircraft.
As per usual in the summer months the aircraft was typically sub-leased out to Airtours and later MyTravel Airways. Skyservice would go on to have a surprisingly long existence for a charter company. It survived Payson's dabbling with the scheduled market in 2000, when his ill-fated Roots Air lasted only 39 days, and benefitted massively from the post 9-11 collapse of Canada 3000 to grow into a major charter airline, adding further A320s and A330s, plus 757s.
C-FBUS served with Skyservice until May 2004 when she joined Malaysia Airlines as 9M-MKR. Her last operator was Brussels Airlines and she was withdrawn in June 2019. In her later years with Skyservice the special titles were removed.
Skyservice finally closed in March 2010 a victim of recession and changes in the nature of package holidays, along with heavy competition. By that time however Payson had sold out (he sold to a private equity group in 2007) and Skyservice had had a respectable 15 years of operations.
1997, June. Skyservice introduces A330 in N America. Flight International
2011, April. McClearn, M. The Ode: Skyservice Airlines - Canadian Business
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: