When Air Europe collapsed in 1991, senior managers Chris Simpson and Brad Burgess decided to set up their own airline. The pair contributed £250,000 of personal savings and joined forces with four institutions, including 3i, to set up CityFlyer Express at Gatwick Airport. Starting with just two aircraft and a few contracts to carry mail and newspapers, they have seen the company grow so quickly that in November 1999, it was bought for £75m by British Airways. The two companies already had a close relationship as CityFlyer became the first airline to sign a franchise agreement with BA in 1993. Under the terms of the deal, CityFlyer operated certain BA short haul flights and, while it remained independent, its aircraft were painted in BA colours and its staff wore BA uniforms. CityFlyer declined to explain the reasons behind its profit growth of 35% pa, from £2.8m in 1996 to £7m in 1999. But it can be attributed in part at least to a sales growth of 34% pa in the same period to £117.5m.
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