The view from Sir Stelios’s terrace in Monaco is shelves apart from Charing Cross Road, London, home to Foyle’s flagship bookshop. I am here to meet chairman Christopher Foyle, raconteur of all things, to discuss the newly-formed charity Monaco Wing of the Air League, of which he is President.
“I grew up in the spirit of books, my grandfather had a wonderful collection of 10,000 leather-bound books, but I had aspirations in aviation. My father decided to take up gliding as a hobby, and took me up to the London gliding club in Dunstable when I was 13. He died a year later, so I carried on where he left off. Fifteen years later I got my pilot’s licence.”
Foyle developed a yen to doing something in commercial aviation. “In 1977, I started an aircraft leasing company and then founded Air Foyle. We were a turnkey contract airline operator, and over thirty years I applied my cargo principle to passenger aircraft. I was introduced to Haji-Ioannou Stelios in 1993.
“During the first two years Stelios was technically a tour operator who owned airlines. At that time, he felt that until he got larger, it made sense economically to buy into an existing airline system. EasyJet was painted on the planes, he was selling the tickets, he was making profit or loss, but the airline actually operating the aircraft was with my company, although the only way passengers would have known this is that on boarding passes and safety cards in the back of the seats, it read ‘operated by Air Foyle Passenger Airlines’.”
Foyle founded the Monaco Wing in November 2013 to act as a chapter of the Air League in the UK (he’s Deputy President), which encourages “air-mindedness” by awarding scholarships to young people to pursue a career in aviation, either as a pilot or engineer.
“A candidate of any nationality in Monaco or the Alpes-Maritimes will be offered a rung on the aviation ladder in France or Monaco, as we do in Britain.
“And should we ever have surplus funds, we will assist financially the Air League in the UK. There are a lot of wealthy Brits down here – approximately 2600 British nationals resident in Monaco – and they may want to give something back to their mother country.”
Look for the Monaco Wing website end of October 2014.