Go-fly 10 years on: What happened to the routes and people behind Europe’s then third biggest LCC?

Go, the low-cost airline that once started as a British Airways subsidiary, celebrated its last flight on 29 March 2003, from Nice to London Stansted. However, the airline’s Stansted network largely remains as part of easyJet and the Bristol base is thriving, while Go’s former base at East Midlands since has been closed down.

Tomorrow (3 May) marks the 10th anniversary of the announcement by easyJet that they planned to acquire Go, then the third-largest LCC in Europe. In 2001, Go had completed a management buyout (with the aid of venture capital partner 3i) after the new boss of British Airways (BA), Rod Eddington, had decided that his vision for the company did not include a low-cost subsidiary, reversing the decision of his predecessor Robert Ayling. Go had started operations from London Stansted (where BA had no presence) in May 1998 and initially promoted itself as ‘The low-cost airline from British Airways’. Given free reign to launch whatever destinations it saw fit, regardless of BA’s network from Heathrow and Gatwick, Go started 51 routes during its four year existence, led by Barbara Cassani who had previously worked for BA in the US.

London Stansted base followed by Bristol and East Midlands

In 1997, the year before Go launched flights from London Stansted, the airport had handled a modest 5.4 million passengers, in spite of its impressive Lord Foster-designed terminal building. In terms of network planning, the original vision was for Go to serve European cities with at least daily flights. A summary of all routes started by the airline (by year) is shown below:

Year Route
1998 STN – Rome Ciampino, Milan Malpensa (later Linate), Copenhagen, Lisbon*, Bologna, Edinburgh, Munich, Venice
1999 STN – Malaga, Faro, Bilbao, Madrid*, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, Barcelona, Prague, Lyon, Zurich*
2000 STN – Naples, Keflavik (Reykjavik)*, Tenerife*, Glasgow, Belfast International
2001 STN – Nice, Newcastle
Glasgow – Belfast*, Dublin*
Edinburgh – Belfast*, Dublin*
BRS – Nice, Faro, Palma, Alicante, Malaga, Ibiza*, Barcelona, Rome*, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow
2002 BRS – Prague, Venice
EMA – Alicante, Malaga, Edinburgh, Prague, Glasgow, Faro, Barcelona, Venice
Source: Go STN – London Stansted, BRS – Bristol, EMA – East Midlands
* Dropped route

Go’s first flight was on 22 May 1998 from London Stansted to Rome Ciampino. In 1999, Go’s network diversified to include Mediterranean ‘beach’ destinations and the airline launched low-cost scheduled flights to Alicante, Malaga and Faro before easyJet ever served these destinations.

A second base was opened at Bristol in May 2001, and a third at East Midlands Airport in March 2002. In total, the airline started 51 routes of which 11 were dropped during the airline’s lifetime. Notable among these are two routes to Dublin (from Edinburgh and Glasgow), which resulted in an aggressive response from Ryanair that at that time only served Glasgow Prestwick. It immediately announced plans to start serving Edinburgh as well and, as a result, Go’s services to Dublin lasted just under six months.

easyJet + Go > Ryanair (for a while)

On the day of the easyJet purchase announcement, Go’s fleet consisted of 24 737-300s (all with 148 seats), which would further grow to 27 aircraft before being re-branded as part of the easyJet fleet in 2003. It is worth noting that at the end of March 2002, Go operated 38 routes using a fleet of 24 737-300s, while easyJet operated 40 routes with a fleet of 30 737s. In 2001, Go had flown 3.7 million passengers at an average load factor of 74.7% compared with easyJet’s 6.0 million passengers at an average load factor of 81.1%. (Source: UK CAA)  For a while, the ‘new’ easyJet was bigger than Ryanair (in terms of passenger numbers), but Ryanair gradually caught up in 2003, before inching ahead in 2004 and then pulling away for good in 2005.

Go’s network: what happened next?

Although easyJet confirmed the deal to buy Go on 16 May 2002, the airline carried on operating under its own name until the end of March 2003. Go’s last flight, with many of the airline’s senior management team on-board, was from Nice to London Stansted on the evening of 29 March 2003.

So what became of the networks from Go’s three bases? At London Stansted, most of Go’s routes are still operated today by easyJet, although the Italian routes to Milan, Rome and Venice were transferred to easyJet’s London Gatwick base and Bologna was dropped. easyJet has since also started additional Stansted routes to destinations such as Amsterdam, Cagliari, Ljubljana and Tallinn, and now serves a total of 26 destinations from the airport. The East Midlands base was never developed. The Barcelona, Edinburgh and Glasgow routes were dropped by the end of 2005 and the three aircraft base was finally closed in January 2010.

The biggest success has been the Bristol base. In the summer of 2002, Go operated to just 10 destinations from the airport, but this grew to over 30 by 2007, and easyJet is now offering flights to 44 destinations from Bristol, although a few of these are only operated seasonally (either in summer or winter). A new Naples route starts in mid-May while Copenhagen returns to the network at the end of September after a lengthy absence.

The Go management team: where are they now?

When Go and 3i completed the management buyout from BA in June 2001, all Go staff became shareholders in the airline with senior managers and directors even investing their own money. As a result, when easyJet bought Go less than a year later, all Go staff benefited financially. Ten years on, it is interesting to see what career choices the senior managers and directors made. Just two have remained employed by airlines throughout the last decade, although the majority have stayed involved in the aviation business in one form or other.

Person Title at Go Since 2001 / now
Barbara Cassani CEO London 2012, Vueling, Jury’s Inn / airberlin (Non-Exec Director)
Andrew Cowen CFO Sama, Jazeera Airways / Mango Aviation Partners
Ed Winter COO Nas Air / Consultant
David Magliano Director Sales & Marketing London 2012, England 2018 / Brand Director The Co-Operative Group
Steven Horner Director Strategy & Planning Studied film / Architecture student (London)
Dominic Paul Director of Customer Services bmi / VP Royal Caribbean (Cruises)
Mike Coltman GM Operations London 2012, Mango Aviation Partners, Sama / Tiger Airways Indonesia (Mandala)
Andrew Goodrum Head of Cabin Crew Rail industry
Andy Holmes Head of Operations PlaneConsult
Fred Kochak Head of Revenue Management Flybe Europe (Director of Commercial)
Paul Llewellyn-Beard Chief Pilot unknown
Catherine Lynn Head of Airports easyJet (Customer & Revenue Director)
Derek Patterson Financial Controller Group Treasurer easyJet / Aviation & Financial Consultant
Rob Platts Head of Financial Planning Mango Aviation Partners / Titan Airways (CFO)
Blair Stewart Head of IT unknown
Oliver Wigdahl Head of Sales & Distribution Jet2.com / Open Frontiers Ltd.
Mike Williams Chief Engineer Mango Aviation Partners
Source: “Go: An Airline Adventure” by Barbara Cassani, LinkedIn, Personal research

NB. anna.aero Editor Ralph Anker was Head of Network Planning at Go from March 2001.

Four of the senior management team from Go did not take up positions with easyJet after the takeover, including Barbara Cassani, who went on to lead London’s Olympic bid in its early days before Lord Coe was put in charge. Mango Aviation Partners was formed by several managers at Go (hence Mango) and they have been working behind the scenes on several LCC start-ups over the years, most recently helping to establish Peach in Japan.


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