During the early 1980s the two main UK regional airlines British Midland and Air UK both competed against each other on routes connecting the Isle of Man to Ireland and England but neither was able to make their operations profitable. In June 1982 they together announced the formation of a new Manx Airlines entity to takeover their existing Manx routes. The new company was owned jointly 75% by British Midland and 25% by Air UK.
British Midland provided the first director and general manager in Terry Liddiard and a staff of 18 were recruited to be based at Ronaldsway. Engineering, training and other support would be provided by the parent airlines. Operations began in November 1982 using an Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante, leased from Air UK, which flew the Ronaldsway-Glasgow route. This aircraft was replaced by a pair of Fokker F27s (one from each parent airline) and a Vickers Viscount (from BMA).
The leased Saab entered service on December 3rd and flew the route 5 times daily during the week. It was used on services to the Isle of Man from Liverpool at the weekend. The Saab wore the moniker 'Sky Hopper' but was quickly a victim of its own success as traffic on both routes grew quickly. This necessitated the return of the Saab in late 1988 and its replacement by a much larger British Aerospace 146-100. A BAC One-Eleven was also leased briefly in 1987.
Manx Airlines Europe became a British Airways franchise partner in 1994 and in September 1996 changed its name to British Regional Airlines. By that point it was operating a sizeable fleet of J41s and ATPs. In 1997 the first of 19 Embraer 145s would be added.
The original Manx Airlines remained in operation and although its original ATPs were transferred to Manx Airlines Europe / British Regional it acquired replacements. In fact, it is a little difficult to tell which aircraft were operating for Manx proper during the 90s as British Regional became the primary constituent of the group. Certainly several of the later ATPs in the G-MANx sequence remained in full Manx colours during the 90s.
The final Manx Airlines service was operated on August 31, 2002 by the ATP G-MANB between Birmingham and Ronaldsway. In the period of its operation Manx Airlines had seen massive changes impact the regional airline business, especially the arrival of low cost airlines. This has been reflected since in the sale of the BA CitiExpress business in 2007 (by then it was known as BA Connect) to FlyBe, which itself was unable to compete effectively with LCCs.
The gap left by Manx Airlines was filled almost immediately by the new EuroManx in 2002 and subsequently the virtual airline Manx2 in 2006, though neither had the longevity Manx Airlines did. Several smaller air-taxi style commuters also took up former Manx routes with little success. Nowadays the regional service gap is rather fittingly served from Ronaldsway by Manx's former Airlines of Britain Group partner Loganair, but it was the original Manx Airlines that did the most to stimulate and sustain the air bridge between the Isle of Man and the rest of the UK.
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: