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Flights of fancy: Europe's quirkiest air routes

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Cars and passengers leaving a Silver City Aiways cross-Channel flight (photo courtesy of the Silver City Association).


ever taken your car on a plane? hidden europe scans past and present flight schedules in search of Europe's quirkiest air routes

Sometimes in our travels around Europe, we have chanced upon quite improbable flights and airlines. Needing to make a quick hop over the Alps from Geneva to Lugano recently, we briefly contemplated flying and found a choice of two carriers on the Swiss domestic route, both relative newcomers to the European aviation scene. One, less than two years old, has a quite extraordinary name, flybaboo, and is one of the new generation of Swiss carriers that has taken to the skies since the collapse of Swissair in March 2002. Only slightly less improbable is the even younger Darwin Airline, a name that hints of some Australian outback connection, but is, it transpired on further enquiry, evidence of the fledgling carrier's determination to survive in the competitive jungle of European aviation.

Airlines come and go, as we all know. In 2005 alone, over a dozen European scheduled air carriers stopped trading, many leaving passengers stranded at far flung points around the continent. Hellas Jet, Air Lithuania, EU Jet, Air Exel and Aero Flight are just some of the names that have, in the past months, probably been consigned to aviation history. Not definitely, as sometimes an airline that suspends all flights can be saved from extinction.

A quick scan of old airline timetables shows that the schedules are full of European carriers which have long since disappeared from the skies. And routes too. Who now remembers Air Kilroe, the little airline that a dozen years back regularly flew from Amsterdam to Dublin with a stop en route at Bournemouth on England's south coast? Or Silver City Airways which fifty years ago ferried passengers and their cars from small airports in southeast England, such as Lydd and Southend, to airfields in Belgium and France. The same airline also carried cars on the twenty minute hop from Belfast in Northern Ireland across to Stranraer in southwest Scotland. Cars? Yes, there really was a time when you could check in your car for a flight.

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