Atlantic Airways is the national airline of the Faroe Islands, operating domestic and international air services from its base at Vágar Airport, on the Faroese island of Vágar.
- International Air Transport Association (IATA) Code: RC
- International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Code: FLI
- Callsign: Faroeline
Regular air links to the Faroes had been in operation since 1963, between the islands and Denmark. Though the airport at Vágar had been constructed by the British Army during World War II, air traffic to the islands was practically non-existent between the departure of the British and the start of services to Copenhagen. Calls for the creation of a Faroese airline company began in the early 1980s. Passenger numbers were steadily increasing and Danish carrier Maersk Air enjoyed the monopoly as the sole airline to serve the Faroe Islands.
As a result, Atlantic Airways was established in 1987, initially between the Faroese Government (51%) and Danish airline Cimber Air (49%), though the Faroese government would assume full ownership in 1989. Flights commenced between Vágar and Copenhagen on 28 March 1988 using a British Aerospace BAe 146. A hangar was built at Vágar by the Faroese government in order to secure Atlantic Airways' home base in the Faroes, ensuring maintenance facilities were available on the islands.
The aim of the new airline company, which many predicted would have a short life, was to build up a Faroese aviation industry on a commercial basis and to ensure the Faroe Islands a good, up-to-date air connection with the outside world. Furthermore, the company aimed to improve the existing level of service. Flight crews and management were Faroese.
Though load factors were high and the new service was popular, Atlantic Airways had a turbulent beginning economically. The Faroe Islands suffered a severe economic depression in the early 1990s, and at its nadir in 1992, the Faroese government delivered 75m DKK in aid to the ailing carrier. Atlantic Airways would not break into profit until 1995.
Flights were launched to Reykjavík in 1995 in co-operation with Air Iceland, and also to Narsarsuaq in Greenland in the summer months, on behalf of Icelandair. The latter half of the 1990s saw Billund in Denmark and Aberdeen in the UK added to Atlantic Airways' flight plan.
The growing list of destinations and passenger numbers, together with the stabilisation of the airline's finances, saw a second BAe 146 added to the fleet in 2000. This new aircraft meant services to London (London Stansted Airport) in the UK and the Norwegian capital Oslo added to the network. Growth in tourism on the islands has also enabled flights to Aalborg, Stavanger, Stord and Edinburgh. However, for the 2006 season services to Stord have been discontinued, and Edinburgh replaced by Shetland. Atlantic Airways also entered the UK domestic market in 2006, becoming the only carrier to offer a direct service between Shetland and London, which it does on a twice weekly basis.
Atlantic Airways also operates a comprehensive domestic service by helicopter, in many instances a vital connection to many of the islands, which otherwise can only be reached by sea. The helicopter has proved a vital tool on the islands since the 1960s, when helicopters from Danish coast guard vessels patrolling the Faroes undertook a variety of tasks, including ferrying equipment and supplies between the islands. The government hired a helicopter in 1978 for these tasks, but in the 1980s a commercial public helicopter service was launched linking each of the islands using two Bell Helicopter Textron aircraft.
Initially, the helicopter service was a stand alone company, SL Helicopters, but the decision to concentrate Faroese aviation into one firm led the helicopter department becoming part of Atlantic Airways in 1994. The helicopters provide a round trip 'hopper' service to each of the islands, which is also ideal for tourists looking for aerial views. They also perform search and rescue duties when appropriate.
Over the last 5 years Atlantic Airways has produced profits of between 8 and 13 million DKK. The company has increased its turnover greatly from approximately 120 million in 1998 to around 190 million DKK in 2002. Atlantic Airways employs 96 people (at January 2005).
As of May 2006, regular planned destinations from Vágar included:
- Copenhagen (Copenhagen Airport)
- Reykjavík (Reykjavik Domestic Airport)
- Oslo (Oslo Airport, Gardermoen)
- United Kingdom
The Atlantic Airways fleet consists of the following aircraft (at May 2006):
- 3 BAe 146
- 1 Avro RJ100
- 1 Bell 212
- 1 Bell 412