3.16am and Flybe is no more

By | Category: Travel news

At 3.16am, the news came that Flybe was going into administration.

image of Flybe plane
Flybe’s demise is blamed on coronavirus and bad management

It came as a surprise to few people because back in January it had nearly reached the point of no return before the government and the owners cobbled a plan together. That plan which involved deferred tax payments to the government resulted in an eruption in anger from rival and other airlines and a conclusion that what the government was trying to permit wasn’t possible under EU rules.

As it is, the problems at the airline go back further to when the then management decided to expand. Yes, they became the largest regional airline in Europe and yes, they moved millions of passengers but there weren’t enough passengers.

Now the CAA will be left to deal with passenger queries. Their website should be the first source for passengers who have bookings and who will be trying to reclaim money.

As Just about Travel has published before when other airlines have gone bust, if you have paid on a credit or debit card approach your card issuer. If you paid by cash or cheque the likelihood of a refund is not high. If it is part of a holiday and it is ATOL bonded, then your monies should be protected.

In January we wondered whether Flybe could survive. Although its owners (including Delta the main owner of Virgin Atlantic) had deeper pockets they had bitten off more than they could – or wanted -to chew.

But Flybe provided something few airlines other than Eastern Airways and Loganair provide and that is what passengers will miss. If you want to get to Manchester from Exeter, Cardiff from Edinburgh or George Best Belfast City from anywhere else then Flybe was your best option unless you wanted to go via London or use Cross Country rail.

Southampton Airport has 95% of its flights delivered by Flybe, Cardiff has 30%, 1.9 million passengers flew on the airline out of George Best Belfast City Airport last year and Exeter Airport relied for 80% of its passenger numbers on Flybe.

Some commentators are wondering whether some airports can survive.

The south west of England will be badly hit both in terms of employment and connectivity. Train journeys to places other than London can be very slow and getting from to Scotland will chew up a day of someone’s holiday.

Is there now a case for subsidised flights linking places under the Public Service Obligation rules as presently exist, for example, between Anglesey and Cardiff or from many Scottish islands to Glasgow?

Since this government has made regional connectivity such as big feature, it will have to look what can be done.

The problem is that few airlines have planes small enough to fly some of the routes on which Flybe operated. Ryanair and easyJet’s planes are probably too big to be economic and Eastern Airlines and Loganair are too small to take up all the slack.

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