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Thu, Dec 15, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Teen mogul's airline ready for take-off

AFP , LONDON

A low-cost airline created and headed by a 19-year-old British entrepreneur was set to take to the skies yesterday -- barring hitches that have grounded his two previous attempts.

The inaugural flight of Martin Halstead's AlphaOne will leave the Isle of Man, off England's northwest coast, at 8:15am, arriving in Edinburgh 45 minutes later.

The service is the first of four daily flights set to run between the two airports six days a week.

Two further routes are planned for early next year between the Isle of Man and the Welsh capital Cardiff, and Southampton, on England's south coast.

Halstead -- whose precocious venture into the cut-throat airline business has earned him comparisons with Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, who also entered business at a young age -- had planned to launch the venture earlier this year.

But the intended route between Oxford and Cambridge fell through while "delays in pilot training and administration" forced a further hold-up last month.

Employees at AlphaOne -- which offers fares from ?36 (US$63) one-way, excluding tax -- will be crossing their fingers that all goes well this time round.

An AlphaOne spokeswoman said the airline's 19-seat Jetstream 31 will not be used for the first flight because of maintenance, but a 10-seat plane -- with all seats booked -- will take its place.

AlphaOne aims to carry about 75,000 passengers annually.

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