What now for Flybe?

By | Category: Travel news

It looks as though another airline name may disappear soon. Flybe has been mired in difficulties for a few years and the crunch has come. A consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart and Cyrus Capital will own the airline subject to shareholder although things may not go smoothly.

image of Flybe plane
Flybe in the old design before money was spent on a re-vamp

City AM reported that one substantial shareholder was seeking legal advice about the takeover and Andrew Tickler, the former CEO of Stobart who is in dispute with the board of Stobart bought 12.23% of the Flybe a few days before the takeover so all may not go smoothly.

Exactly 40 years ago, on November 1st 1979, Jersey European Airways came into being flying from the Channel Islands to the UK. It later became British European and subsequently, Flybe being based at Exeter Airport.

In this world of low-cost and traditional airlines, Flybe sat uncomfortably being a slight mixture of the two. Connecting regional airports in the UK as well as direct flights to some European ones, it opted for smaller aircraft compared to its bigger competitors who tended to standardise on one aircraft as espoused by Southwest Airlines in the USA.

In the last twelve years it has only made smallish profits for 50% of the time yet carries over nine million passengers a year and turning over £750 million. As such it carries far more passengers than Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Air put together but for as long as I can remember it has always veered between success and yet another management plan for development or to plug a loss. But is it really worth just the £2 million that is being proposed?

For passengers the regional airport links will probably matter most. Will these survive?

Virgin probably wants to use Flybe to feed passengers into its international flights which are heavily biased to flights to North America. It already has a codeshare agreement with Flybe but, in the future, it could mean that Flybe will concentrate on flying passengers into Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester rather than from say, Scotland to the south west of England or Cardiff.

Stobart owns two airports, Southend which has grown rapidly and Carlisle Lake District but Stobart Air operates some regional flights under the names of Flybe and Aer Lingus as well as having bases at Cork, Dublin, the Isle of Man and Southend so you can see why it may have joined the consortium.

We’ll just have to wait and see if the airline survives, in what form and whether those regional flights might be reduced.

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