bmi regional Marks 25th Anniversary of First European Route
APRIL 8th 1988 dawned bright and sunny in Aberdeen as the team behind a fledgling independent airline popped the champagne corks to celebrate the launch of their first scheduled international flight out of the Granite City.
Twenty-five years on, for bmi regional chairman Ian Woodley, today marks not just the anniversary of a long-lasting link between Europe’s oil capital and Esjberg in Denmark, but the day he caught the eye of his future wife.
“This is a landmark day for me both professionally and personally,” said the 55-year-old. “I am delighted to be back at the helm of the company I started more than two decades ago and marking this milestone with many of the same team who first helped put us on the aviation map.
“It doesn’t feel like 25 years but when I look at where we were then and where we are now, we have come a long way. Today’s anniversary is a fitting celebration of how our company has evolved over the years.”
Mr Woodley, along with his business partner Graeme Ross, founded Business Air in 1987 with two Embraer 110 aircraft, a handful of pilots and three stewardesses. Focused initially on providing chartered services for the oil and gas industry, the aircraft ran 24/7, shuttling offshore passenger during the day and operating Royal Mail cargo flights throughout the night.
Aberdeen to Esjberg was the second commercial scheduled route the company launched and its first foray into international services. The inaugural flight was marked with a red carpet media photocall where Mr Woodley was joined on the tarmac by tourism officials and Business Air’s chief stewardess, Carolyn Whyte for the ribbon-cutting.
“Little did I know then this lovely woman would go on to become my wife, or that so many of the key people who played an important part in celebrating the launch back then would still be part of the bmi regional family today.”
Woodley and Ross sold Business Air to the British Midland Group in 1996 and moved on to pursue other interests. They joined forces again in early 2012 to lead the team to buy back the company they started, now known as bmi regional.
From its humble beginnings, the airline now operates a fleet of 18 Embraer 135 and 145 jet aircraft, operates more than 450 flights a week across the UK and Europe and employs over 400 people at bases in Aberdeen, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester and Chester.
More than 250,000 people have flown the Aberdeen to Esjberg route over the years, clocking up over 3.2million miles across 7,800 flights.
The Woodleys, who have been happily married for 22 years, will be among delegates at a champagne reception at Esjberg Airport today attended by members of the Danish business community and civic leaders.
“The airport director at Esbjerg today, Peter Bay, is also the same person who welcomed us 25 years ago,” said Mr Woodley.
“As the first international scheduled service to operate from the north of Scotland I am pleased that the route is just as popular today as it was when we first launched it. Not only does it link two of Europe’s key oil and gas hubs but is a busy tourist service as well.
“There is a lot of history behind the bmi regional name both in terms of the people and the philosophy. Much of what we put in place back then has set the tone for how we are growing the organisation now and in the future.”