Surrey Connect MAN/MCVFlights Hallmark was not primarily a bus company, but a coaching one, specialising in hotel work around airports. It was part of Rotala from 2005, and acquired the Surrey Connect brand when Centra sold its Addlestone operations in 2005. Its subsequent history - and of its buses - was complex. Rotala sold Surrey Connect to Wiltax of New Haw in 2007, which was then taken over by Tellings-Gold Miller and then Arriva. The histories of the hotel shuttle operations - and associated vehicles - are not covered by LOTS except incidentally, but the rotala operations at Gatwick seem to have been acquired by the TGM Group sometime in 2011-2012, so the detailed history of some of these buses is less than clear.
Four MAN 14.220 buses were bought by Flights Hallmark during the latter half of 2006 for Surrey Connect bus services and Gatwick hotel work.
AE06XRMwas dedicated to route 540 (East Surrey Hospital - Redhill Bus Station - Caterham - Woldingham). It was red, with a blue skirt and branding along the cantrail for the 540, and white Surrey Connect fleetnames. It worked on the 540 for five years, undergoing several changes of ownership but retaining its livery and fleetnames. In September 2011 TGM (Arriva-owned) lost the 540 Surrey contract to Metrobus.
TGM promptly sent this bus north to Stansted, where it operated the 308 between Stansted Airport and Bishops Stortford. This bus appeared there, working the 308, still in red/blue with Surrey Connect fleetnames!
But fairly soon it was sent to Gatwick, reseated with fewer seats and copious luggage racks and repainted in a Gatwick Hotel by bus white and blue livery.
But it did not stay there long. By February 2013 Arriva had removed the hotel branding and allocated it to Arriva Southern Counties at Tunbridge Wells, where it worked as a bus in white and blue on such routes as the 229 and 209.
But Arriva had it earmarked to move to Arriva the Shires, along with the other similar Gatwick vehicles, for use on "the blue one" between High Wycombe and Chesham. It stayed there for two years until it caught fire in service in July 2015.
AE56MBFcame to Flights Hallmark a couple of months later, in October 2006, for use on the 513 (Kingston - Downside). It too went into Surrey Connect red with blue skirt and white fleetnames, unbranded.
But in April 2007 Flights moved this bus to Wessex Connect, just prior to Wiltax and Travel London West taking over their west Surrey Connect operations including the 513. Rotala moved it on to Central Connect, where it adopted house livery.
At some date after that it moved to rotala Gatwick operations with Southern Connect wearing blue and black.
AE56MBUFlights bought this one in November 2006, but it is unclear where it was intended for. It was photographed on bus work in Kent/Surrey in June 2009, when it was spotted working on route 236 between East Grinstead and Westerham. It wore a platinum coloured overall finish, with Hotel Connect fleetnames. Whether this was its regular deployment I do not know, but it was probably engaged normally on Gatwick hotel work, with this on an as-required basis. It was possibly substituting for Dart SLF V509NOF. Its normal sphere of operations is perhaps indicated by the amber light on the cab-roof.Surrey Connect then lost this tendered route at the end of August 2009 to Southdown PSV. Rotala continued to use this bus on Gatwick Hotel services, with blue/white/black Connectbuses Southern livery.
TGM took over the Gatwick hotel routes and repainted it in blue/blue, with advertising for Travelodge. In March 2013 Arriva moved it to High Wycombe for "the one". It gained the dedicated route livery, but lost its amber light at last. It too became a dedicated trainer early in 2018.
AE56MBVfollowed the previous one a month later. Where Flights used it I do not know, but it had an amber beacon on top by November 2011, when it was used by rotala's Connectbuses Southern at Gatwick, on hotels duties in their blue/white/black livery. After take-over at Gatwick by TGM it wore white/blue Hotel by bus livery. It too went to Arriva the Shires for High Wycombe's "the blue one" in February 2013, and moved on to the training fleet in 2018.
AE06OPGhad a different early career, starting as an MCV demonstrator. It worked with First in Wales, for Blackpool, and in Plymouth for First Devon & Cornwall. It was acquired by rotala for Central Connect in the West Midlands, then appeared at Gatwick for use on Central Connect hotel services. It was duly taken over by TGM at Gatwick, then appeared in store at Gillingham with Arriva Medway Towns, repainted in Arriva interurban livery as 3601. It was intended for work there, but was not used, instead going to Arriva the Shires at High Wycombe. It too joined the training fleet in early 2018.