TAT European Airlines - History


TAT commenced scheduled operations in 1968.

During the 1970s TAT began building up a comprehensive network of regional, short-haul domestic and international scheduled routes, as a result of being taken over in 1973 by Société Auxiliare de Services et Materiel Aéronautiques (SASMAT), the owner of rival French regional airline Rousseau Aviation, as well as the subsequent mergers with regional rivals Taxi Avia France and Air Paris. The resulting regional network served 30 provincial points in France and neighbouring European countries from Paris Orly, Lyons Satolas, Lille and St. Brieuc, respectively.

Many of TAT's French domestic routes were operated in collaboration with Air Inter, at the time the dominant domestic scheduled airline in France as well as the largest domestic airline in Europe. Most international routes were operated in conjunction with Air France, the primary French flag carrier at the time. Year-round services linking Lille with London Heathrow as well as Strasbourg with Milan Linate and a seasonal Béziers-London Gatwick service were among the international routes TAT operated during that time.

All joint operations with Air Inter and Air France were operated under those airlines' flight numbers and were prefixed with those carriers' two-letter airline identification codes as allocated by IATA, i.e. IT for Air Inter and AF for Air France. The aircraft used on all year-round international operations under contract to Air France wore that airline's full aircraft livery.

From the late 1970s until the early 1980s, TAT used to operate a scheduled German internal route linking Saarbrücken with Berlin Tegel. This route was operated on behalf of TAT Export, a wholly owned subsidiary.

The airline also started an express delivery services company in 1976 which still exists as of 2007.

During the early 1980s TAT acquired regional rivals Air Alpes and Air Alsace. As a result of these mergers, the airline established itself as France's largest regional airline as well as the leading regional partner of Air France. It also resulted in an expanded network covering more than 50 points throughout France and Europe. TAT changed its official name to Transport Aérien Transrégional in 1984 to reflect the growth in its scheduled route network.

In July 1989 Air France acquired a 35% stake in TAT. (At that time TAT was the fourth-largest French airline .)

In the early 1990s TAT began taking advantage of the EU's newly liberalised internal air transport market by launching a three times daily scheduled service between Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Gatwick, the first time it had operated a scheduled service on a major international European trunk route. This was also the time TAT began marketing itself as TAT European Airlines.

In January 1993 British Airways acquired a 49.9% stake in TAT. From then on TAT began operating all international scheduled services in British Airways colours and under BA flight numbers. TAT also joined the British Airways Executive Club frequent flier programme at that time. The change in ownership furthermore resulted in the launch of two new international routes linking Lyon and Marseille with London Gatwick from the start of the 1993 summer timetable period. TAT's subsequent launch of three daily return flights between Paris Orly and London Heathrow complemented British Airways' own thrice daily Heathrow-Orly service. This enabled British Airways to circumvent the slot restrictions the slot co-ordinator for the airports in the Paris region had imposed on Orly's non-resident airline users, which limited each of these airlines to holding a maximum of four daily pairs of slots, and to offer up to six daily round-trips on that route. As a result of these developments, Air France ended all commercial co-operation with TAT.

In August 1996 British Airways acquired the remaining 50.1% of TAT's share capital, thus acquiring 100% ownership.

In 1997 British Airways brought TAT under joint management control with Air Liberté, in which it had acquired a controlling stake in October 1996.

British Airways subsequently merged TAT into Air Liberté to achieve a significant reduction in costs and greater operational synergies. The UK flag carrier eventually disposed of the merged entity in May 2001 to rid itself of years of heavy losses and difficult labour relations at its French subsidiaries.

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