Dart Group history

 

Share the story of Dart Group PLC

Here at Dart Group PLC, we're very proud of our incredibly diverse history.
It’s a story that’s seen us expand into three successful companies, Jet2holidays, Jet2.com and Fowler Welch.

We’ve been a flying success for over 40 years. Read on and you'll discover how we grew as a Group:

1971
Art Carpenter gets his company off the ground
Art Carpenter sets up Carpenter's Air Services and Carpenter's Transport Ltd to fly fragrant flowers from Guernsey (famous for the Battle of the Flowers) to the UK, and onwards to wholesale markets.
 
1978
Here comes the Handley Page Dart Herald!
Express Air Freight buys its first Handley Page Dart Herald, the inspiration for our later name “Dart Group PLC.” The aircraft 'darts' into action between Bournemouth and the Channel Islands!
 
1980
Express Air Services wins a very regal contract
Express Air Services secures its first contract with the Royal Mail, for the speedy delivery of first class mail between Bournemouth, Bristol and Liverpool Airports.
 
1984
A cooler way to deliver fresh flowers and produce
Channel Express invests in cooling equipment, cold stores and temperature-controlled vehicles. This helps to make our flowers even fresher.
 
1986
A super start to the year
Channel Express creates 'Super' Dart Herald aircraft with improved instruments and avionics capable of delivering a payload of nearly 6 tonnes each.
 
1988
Channel Express stocks up for success
Channel Express Group Ltd floats on the UK Unlisted Securities Market (USM) to raise capital for our ambitious expansion plans. Immediately after it floats, almost 11.2 million ordinary shares are in issue. We also secure more Royal Mail and UPS contracts, increasing our workforce to 200 colleagues.
 
1990
Channel Express acquires Benair Freight Ltd.
Channel Express issues a further one million shares to buy Benair Freight Ltd, an international freight management company. It gives Channel Express an international presence with multinational bases. We also use the Fokker F27 for our new operation for Fedex between Birmingham and Brussels.
 
1992
Channel Express gets there first yet again!
Channel Express is the first to win the containerised night mail contract for the Royal Mail. We put our new Electra aircraft into action for this time-sensitive operation between London Stansted and Edinburgh.
 
1995
Channel Express says ‘buon giorno’ to the Italian Post Office
Channel Express (Air Services) completes a six month contract for the Italian Post Office. The contract is a total success; with our aircraft making swift deliveries between Genoa, Sardinia, Sicily and Rome.
 
1997
Each Bus stop delivers 45 tonnes for our customers
The Eurofreighter carries out daily 45 tonne deliveries from Sweden to Luxembourg on behalf of Panalpina. It's also used for a weekly Stansted to Tel Aviv service for British Airways World Cargo. Fowler Welch expands its Spalding warehouse and we split our shares two for one, meaning there are now more than 32 million ordinary shares in issue.
 
1999
A cool new addition to Dart Group
Dart Group PLC purchases Coolchain to deliver even more fresh produce, packaging and warehousing. We also open a new consolidation centre in Portsmouth. We form Fowler Welch BV as a Netherlands company and Channel Express Parts Trading to supply aircraft parts to other airlines. A further 1.6 million shares are placed for Dart Group PLC. This brings the total in issue to 34 million.
 
2001
Dart Group’s journey with the Boeings begins
Dart Group PLC purchases two Boeing 737-300QC ‘Quick Change’ aircraft in May 2001. This new aircraft would go on to inspire the launch of Jet2.com as its ‘Quick Change’ (QC) system can transform from a 148-passenger to a 16 tonne payload freighter aircraft in 30 minutes. We also add new ACAS avionics to our Fokker F27 aircraft and introduce a tracking IT system for Fowler Welch.
 
2003
Jet2.com takes flight
Jet2.com operates its first flight from Leeds Bradford to Amsterdam on 12th February 2003. Following the success of its first route, Jet2.com expands to operate routes to Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Malaga, Milan Bergamo, Nice and Palma. We purchase a further eight Boeing 737-300s too. Fowler Welch and Coolchain combine forces to form Fowler Welch-Coolchain.
 
2005
Jet2.com spreads its wings with new aircraft and bases
With 1.3 million passengers flown in the 2004/2005 financial year, Jet2.com spreads its wings to Newcastle, Blackpool and Edinburgh, adding up to six UK bases in total. Jet2.com also buys its first Boeing 757-200 aircraft with a capacity of 232 passengers. Dart Group PLC shares are transferred from Official List to AIM on the London Stock Market and we sell Benair for £5.1m.
 
2007
Jet2.com makes a break with Jet2holidays
Dart Group PLC adds a third string to its bow, with the launch of Jet2holidays, offering customers and travel agents “Package holidays you can trust.” It’s good news for Fowler Welch-Coolchain too, as the Federation of Canary Islands Growers (FedEx) renews its five year contract with the company.
 
2009
Steve Heapy joins to drive the growth of Jet2holidays
Fowler Welch-Coolchain launches a new website that offers improved navigation, with interesting new content and captivating images. Jet2.com launches East Midlands from May 2010 and Jet2holidays launches its first holiday brochure - a real thing of beauty. Steve Heapy joins from MyTravel as Jet2holidays’ Chief Commercial Operating Officer. His expertise proves to be vital, as Jet2holidays goes on to grow under his guidance.
 
2011
Jet2.com makes the big time in the North East!
Jet2.com can really say it has made it in Newcastle! The Tyne is all ours as we achieve our ambitious plans of being the North East’s biggest leisure carrier. Jet2holidays expands its hotel portfolio even further in 2011, releasing two bumper brochures within the year and launching an entirely new range; Indulgent Escapes, which offers a bold new approach to luxury holidays. Fowler Welch-Coolchain enjoys a year of expansion, opening new satellite depots at Alconbury and Newton Abbot.
 
2013
Jet2.com celebrates ten years of taking to the skies!
Steve Heapy is promoted to Chief Executive Officer of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays and Philip Meeson becomes the Group’s Executive Chairman. Jet2.com scoops ‘Best Short Haul Airline’ at the Globe Travel Awards for the second year running, a great way to celebrate our 10th birthday. Many of our colleagues make the move to the new 71,000 sq. ft offices at The Mint in Leeds, as we employ more than 1,500 staff in Yorkshire.

There are more bright new beginnings this year too, as Gary Brown joins us as Executive Director and Group Chief Financial Officer. Gary brings all his expertise as a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales. Our finances are certainly in safe hands, as Gary was always on the ball in his previous position as Global CFO of Umbro PLC.
 
2015
Jet2holidays is one in a million!
We welcome more than a million happy customers on a Jet2holiday in the financial year 2014-2015. Jet2holidays also becomes the only European holiday operator to offer an innovative new baggage service, Resort Flight Check-in. Jet2.com launches the Onboard Together programme to stamp out anti-social behaviour onboard. Plus, we’re ready to expand again, acquiring 30 new Next Generation 737-800s from Boeing between 2016 and 2018.
 
2017
Jet2holidays set for biggest summer ever
January sees the start of the summer booking rush with Jet2holidays’ biggest ever choice of destinations, now from nine UK bases.

It’s a time to celebrate for Jet2.com too, as it’s named as one of the most punctual airlines in the world according to the travel intelligence company, OAG. Jet2.com is also named ‘Best Short Haul Airline’ at the Globe Travel Awards 2016, held in January 2017.
 
Plus, it’s always the aim of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays to treat every customer as a VIP. That’s why we’re all smiles when we get a customer satisfaction score of 83% in the UKCSI benchmark. It’s partly thanks to our inspired recruitment drive of growing our UK-based call centre, doubling the number of our overseas reps to 500, and investing in our website.

Plus, due to the incredible demand, we expand our free, safe and secure service, Resort Flight Check-In to even more hotels and destinations.
 
 
 
1975
A new name for the Art of flying flowers
Art Carpenter joins forces with Guernsey exporters to create Express Air Freight. The famous Douglas DC3 helped to fly produce, flowers and freight between the Channel Islands and the UK.
1979
New Services take to the skies
Art Carpenter forms Express Air Services to take over the cargo aircraft operation from Express Air Freight.
1983
Philip Meeson channels an exciting new chapter for the Express companies
Philip Meeson, an expert pilot who trained in the Royal Air Force and a five-time British Aerobatics Champion, purchases the 'Express' companies. We get a great new name too - “Channel Express”.
1985
Channel Express Group wins TNT contract
Channel Express secures overnight parcel contracts with TNT. We acquire our third Handley Page Dart Herald to carry time-sensitive airfreight between Birmingham, Nuremburg and Hanover.
1987
The answer’s in the post for Channel Express
Channel Express delivers for express parcel carriers, the Guernsey Post Office, Royal Mail and newspaper publishers. It's 'super' news all round, as we expand our 'Super' Dart Herald aircraft fleet too. The Group also expands its consolidation centres in both the Channel Islands and the UK.
1989
Look out for the arrival of the Lockheed Electra!
Channel Express (Air Services) purchases the first of five Lockheed L-188 Electra freighter aircraft. Capable of carrying a 15 tonne payload, it can be loaded in 25 minutes and flies at 330 knots. We set off for pastures new, flying to key European routes for UPS, TNT and DHL.
1991
Darting for glory as the Group puts its stock in London
Channel Express Group PLC gets a great new name “Dart Group PLC.” The name honours the Rolls-Royce Dart engines that are so invaluable to the Group's forays into the air. Dart Group PLC moves to the Official List of the London Stock Exchange. The company’s shareholders take up a further 2.75 million ordinary shares to raise funds for expansion, with 15.25 million ordinary shares now in issue.
1994
We welcome Fowler Welch into our Group
Dart Group PLC acquires Fowler Welch Ltd, a temperature-controlled distribution company. It becomes a major asset, making important deliveries to top supermarkets every day. We also gain BS5750 Quality Assurance accreditation, which proves our systems are working to serve customers, shareholders and stakeholders.
1996
Dart Group PLC gets on the bus!
Dart Group PLC purchases the Airbus A300-B4, a 257 passenger aircraft that was the world's first twin-engine widebody jet airliner. We convert ours into freighters with a mighty moniker the Eurofreighter. Fowler Welch also adds a new warehouse at its Spalding headquarters, as well as a lovely new logo and livery.
1998
The only way is UPS for our three Airbus A300-B4 ‘Eurofreighters’
Channel Express is called upon by the major delivery providers UPS and DHL. We’re also awarded Type Rating Training Organisation (TRTO) approval by the CAA and Joint Airworthiness Requirements (JAR 145) .
2000
Coolchain is completely agreeable
Dart Group PLC darts upwards in size as it now has 1,500 colleagues across its companies. We’re a major player for freight, distribution and delivery. Coolchain welcomes the new millennium by reaching a three-year agreement with the Canary Island’s Federation of Produce Growers. It also buys A. Wood & Son (Detling), a former local competitor.
2002
A star is born – Jet2.com!
Jet2.com, the leading low cost leisure airline, is launched! After the success of our chartered service, we announce that the first Jet2.com flight will take off in February 2003. Dart Group PLC purchases a further eight Boeing 737-300QCs. We also purchase a fourth Airbus A300-B4 for cargo. Jet2.com opens for business on 11th December 2002. It sells 12,000 seats online within the first 24 hours!
2004
Jet2.com is one in a million
Jet2.com flies its 500,000th passenger in March 2004, then welcomes its one millionth passenger in September 2004. Already aiming to expand, we’re on course to begin flights from both Belfast and Manchester airports. Our air deliveries are still going strong, as Channel Express secures a long-term contract to be the leading aircraft provider of the Royal Mail.
2006
Jet2.com has a share of success
Channel Express (Air Services) Limited changes its name to the catchier Jet2.com Limited - over five million passengers have now flown with the airline. To meet this extra demand, we buy ourselves six more Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Fowler Welch-Coolchain buys local competitor R.F. Fielding Cheshire Ltd and Dart Group PLC splits its shares by 4 for 1, so there are now 134 million ordinary shares in issue.
2008
Dart Group PLC more than manages its systems
Jet2.com announces it flew more than 4 million passengers in a single year. It’s a great way to mark the airline’s fifth anniversary, in a year that also sees us introduce the myJet2 loyalty scheme. Fowler Welch-Coolchain makes several sprightly upgrades to its operations, including the complete redesign of its Paddock Wood warehouse facility. Dart Group PLC wins the ‘Enterprise IT Solution of the Year’ at the Channel Network Awards, beating Selfridges and Coca Cola in the process.
2010
Jet2.com welcomes 20 million customers onboard
Fowler Welch-Coolchain expands its business even further, purchasing a 500,000 sq. ft ambient distribution centre at Heywood, Greater Manchester. Meanwhile, Jet2.com welcomes its 20 millionth customer onboard. We also take ‘pride’ in safely flying 13 lions from a Romanian zoo to a new 10-acre enclosure in Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Later, Jet2.com launches at Glasgow Airport.
2012
Jet2.com is on top of the world
Jet2.com has a winning start to the year by scooping ‘Best Short Haul Airline’ at the Travel Weekly Globe Travel Awards, beating bmi, British Airways, easyJet, Iberia and Lufthansa. Jet2holidays celebrates five years since its launch, with passenger numbers increasing by a whopping 500 percent. We also launch ‘Take Me There’, a training programme to ensure Jet2.com and Jet2holidays colleagues have the know-how to create an even better experience for our customers.
2014
Jet2.com makes three the magic number with another Globe award!
Jet2.com makes a swift return to winning ways by scooping the ‘Best Short Haul Airline’ for the third year in a row at the Globe Travel Awards 2014. We see the launch of our spectacular £9.5 million state-of-the-art Training Centre in Yorkshire, complete with three flight simulators. we roll out our new mobile responsive Jet2holidays website.
2016
Jet2holidays expands again
The great growth story continues at Jet2holidays, as we now notch up 1.2 million customers in a single financial year. This stacks up with our other impressive figures, as we now employ over 5,000 colleagues across the UK and overseas. Our airline is also recognised for its great legacy with the Business Achievement Award at the Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame.

We’re delighted to bring Jet2.com’s friendly low fares and Jet2holidays’ great value package holidays to even more customers with the launch of our 8th base, Birmingham, and our 9th base, London Stansted. Jet2.com is also proud to be ranked the UK’s top airline on TripAdvisor and the UK’s Most Loved Airline on Skytrax.
The 15th September 2016 is a monumental day for us – it’s when our first brand new Boeing 737-800 aircraft comes home. Landing at Leeds Bradford, our shiny new aircraft has interior innovations such as sculpted sidewalls, more open space and extra legroom. It’s the first of 30 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft due to be delivered from 2016-2018, with a further order of four more aircraft to bring the total to 34 by January 2019.

There’s also more BIG news for Jet2.com, as we open our new 6,000 square metre Manchester Hangar, so we can maintain up to three aircraft at a time.

We’re delighted to lead the way with more ways to keep our customers happy, too. At the end of the year, both Jet2.com and Jet2holidays completely remove credit card fees to offer even better value for money. We proud to be the first company to offer zero credit card fees on flight and holiday bookings through debit cards, credit cards or PayPal.
 

Annual Report & Accounts 2017