RAF Sergeant turned travel agent plans to launch adventure tour operator

By Harry Kemble
08/05/2023
Home » RAF Sergeant turned travel agent plans to launch adventure tour operator

A travel agent who trained alongside Prince William in the RAF wants to start his own tour operator business, offering off-the-beaten track adventures. 

Hertfordshire-based Chris Pratt launched his travel agency business with Not Just Travel in August 2021 after leaving the RAF, but now plans to open a new company called Travel Antares.

He will launch the tour operator at the end of June or in July as soon as he has received his ATOL and built the travelantares.co.uk website.

Chris said Travel Antares will offer trips to ‘pretty much anywhere’ but added the main destinations will be Africa, Caribbean, Mauritius, Europe and French Polynesia.

“I have worldwide travel experience, so I am not going to pigeon-hole myself,” he said, adding that Travel Antares will offer honeymoons and weddings overseas. 

“One of the big destinations that caught me by surprise is French Polynesia,” he said. “People think it is out of their reach in terms of cost, but I know where to look and book.

“I’ve booked a lot of French Polynesia trips for around half the price the customers expect.”

He believes he has got some clients that will follow him across to Travel Antares.  “At the moment, I’ve got 10 to 20 honeymoon enquiries in the pipeline,” he added.  

“But I am not going to stop them booking so they book with Travel Antares. It all depends on when they want to book.”

Chris started to think about launching a tour operator when ‘two or three’ suppliers refused to book a trip for him due to poor flight connectivity.

At the time, he was trying to book flights from Tanzania to the Maldives for a couple who wanted a twin-centre trip for their honeymoon.

Chris said: “I want to become a tour operator that focuses on adventure and weddings. It will be about inspiring people to get away from the normal experience.

“The best trip that I’ve put together was for a couple but the suppliers who I approached turned me down. The couple wanted to go on safari and then go to the Maldives but there were no direct flights.

“The suppliers kept saying ‘no one does that [journey]’, but you could say that about a lot of trips.

“Being turned away was really frustrating.”

Finally, Chris approached Classic Collection which booked the couple on a flight to the Maldives from Tanzania via Doha, Qatar. The booking was worth around £19,000.

“[That experience] encouraged me to start my own tour operator business,” he added.

Chris left the RAF in 2020, bringing the curtain down on a 12-year career, which saw him spend 10 years on the frontline.

He completed seven tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali before he was diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The diagnosis came too late,” he said. “I just wanted to get out of the RAF by then.”

Chris met the future king when he trained to be a crew man in Shawbury, Shropshire, in 2009.

“He was on the course ahead of me, training to be helicopter pilot,” said Chris. “He would join our course from time to time because he needed to catch up after various royal engagements.”

Chris remembers being ‘in charge’ of the now-Prince of Wales for half an hour during the course.

“We had to talk about what defined us,” he said. “I remember William drawing a picture of him on the throne. We all thought that was a bit presumptuous.

“But he had also drawn some water underneath with a Sea King helicopter that he was going to fly.”

Photos, supplied by Chris, show him in action in Norway.

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