About The Bland Group
In 1810, the year Beethoven composed Fur Elise, Napoleon annexed the Kingdom of Holland and the first steamboat sailed down the Ohio River, a small shipping agency was established in Gibraltar. This company was later acquired by the Gaggero family, and today - over 200 years - later it continues to trade, evolve and prosper under that one family. The Gaggero family has managed the Bland Group since 1862, whilst owning and developing this remarkable company since 1891. Over four generations, the family has successfully steered the Bland Group through momentous, and often turbulent, periods in the history of the world and its resulting economic vagaries.
The company was originally established in 1810, when Marcus Henry Bland founded a shipping agency in Gibraltar. In 1861, he expanded into ship owning, carrying passengers and cargo from Gibraltar to Tangier and along the Moroccan coast, returning with supplies to the Garrison, and towing ships against adverse winds through the Strait.
It was in 1891 that the Bland family, with no male heirs, sold the company to Joseph and Emmanuel Gaggero. The brothers had, at this point, worked closely with the Bland family for some 30 years. Joseph became Managing Director, followed by his son George (later Sir George) and then his grandson, Joseph (III). Today, great-grandson, James Gaggero, is the Group’s Chairman.
In 1931 Gibraltar Airways was formed and pioneered flights across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, using a Saro Windhover amphibian aircraft. World War II saw the development of a runway in Gibraltar, and in 1947 Gibraltar Airways, later known as GB Airways, set up a scheduled service in cooperation with British European Airways to serve the West Mediterranean region. For the next 30 years, GB Airways flew primarily to Morocco, and also carried out charter flights to Portugal and France operating DC3 and Viscount aircraft.
In the bleak years between 1964 and the Gibraltar/Spanish frontier re-opening in 1982, Bland demonstrated an intense “business-as-usual determination”, maintaining a sea and air lifeline to Tangier and the UK. Bland leapfrogged over Spain to diversify its Gibraltar trading hub, reducing dependence on its core activity. Geographical diversification created and added turnover to reduce financial risk and enhance the ability of the group to compete internationally.
After economic restrictions were imposed by Spain on Gibraltar in 1964, Gibraltar Airways secured a licence to participate on the vital London route. In 1989, the airline transferred its operational base to the UK, with its own Air Operators Certificate under the name of GB Airways Ltd, and it grew steadily from two to 16 aircraft. In 2008, in an environment of increasing economic uncertainty, GB Airways was sold to easyJet in a £103 million deal. GB Airways operated 44 routes out of the UK across the entire Mediterranean area, into the Red Sea, the Atlantic’s Canary Islands and Madeira. GB Airways employed almost 1000 people, carrying 3 million passengers annually in one of Europe’s most successful aviation businesses.
Following the sale of GB Airways, the Group has continued to evolve, both by acquiring new companies and investing in exciting development opportunities.