Eastern Airways has pledged to retain the Air Southwest brand as part of a takeover of the Plymouth-based regional carrier.


The deal will see Humberside-based Eastern Airways, the UK’s second largest regional airline, expand its network into the South West of England.


Sutton Harbour Group formed Air Southwest in 2003 with the airline operating from 12 airports using a fleet of five aircraft and employing 135 staff.


Eastern Airways’ fleet will rise to 35 aircraft with the addition of the five 50-seat Dash 8 300 turbo-prop aircraft.


The Air Southwest brand will continue to be used in south west England for Plymouth, Newquay and Bristol routes with the Eastern Airways brand continuing on the parent company’s core routes from the east coast, the midlands, the north of England and north east Scotland, a statement said.


The proposed agreement is subject to regulatory approval, with legal completion expected next month. 


The takeover comes seven months after the two airlines formed a strategic partnership, which enabled Air Southwest to offer GDS distribution and broaden its sales channels for booking flights through the travel trade.


Eastern Airways managing director Richard Lake said: “As market leaders in our respective catchments this deal makes perfect sense for Eastern Airways and gives us an even greater reach across the UK. 


“Air Southwest is well regarded by its customers and we want to ensure we retain that loyalty by continuing to offer excellent service and value for money.
 
“The integration of the two airlines also enables greater operational flexibility and efficiency as we can look into synergies by bringing both networks and fleets closer together.”
 
Nigel Godefroy, chief executive of Sutton Harbour Group, said: “Our goal has been to reach an agreement which puts Air Southwest into good hands and I am confident that this deal with Eastern Airways does just that. 


“Being part of a larger airline will bring stability to Air Southwest and that is good news for air travel to and from the far South West, and for Plymouth and Newquay airports.”