Flybe, British Regional Airline, Collapses After Bailout, Coronavirus

  • "Flybe has entered administration," the UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a tweet to passengers.
  • Flybe has tried "everything possible" but has been "unable to overcome major funding difficulties."
  • The UK government said it is "standing by" to help affected passengers, but was unwilling to bail Flybe out again.

British regional airline Flybe announced the immediate cessation of its operations Thursday. The collapse of the company, which was on the verge of bankruptcy more than a year ago, was caused by financial problems and impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. This is despite a previous bailout from the British government.

Flybe was a British airline based in Exeter, England. Until its sale to Connect Airways in 2019, it was the largest independent regional airline in Europe. Flybe provided more than half of UK domestic flights outside London.

“Flybe has entered administration,” the UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a tweet to passengers. “Please do not go to the airport as your Flybe flight will not be operating. For flights operated by franchise partners, passengers should make contact with their airline.”

Flybe had avoided bankruptcy in January, thanks to the fiscal stimulus from the government of Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. However, the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which led to a sudden slowing of air traffic around the world, proved too much for Europe’s largest regional airline.

Flybe called on passengers who booked a flight with the company “not to go to the airport,” saying it could not find them an alternative flight. The Flybe company, which employs more than 2,000 people, annually transports about 8 million passengers to 170 European destinations. It is also the main carrier at UK regional airports, such as Aberdeen, Belfast, Manchester, and Southampton.

Flybe had tried “everything possible,” but has been “unable to overcome major funding difficulties,” Managing Director Mark Anderson lamented.

“Europe’s largest independent regional airline has been unable to overcome significant funding challenges to its business. This has been compounded by the outbreak of coronavirus which in the last few days has resulted in a significant impact on demand. Flybe has been a key part of the UK aviation industry for four decades, connecting regional communities, people and businesses across the entire nation.”

For four decades, Flybe has been a key part of the UK aviation industry, bringing together regional communities, people and businesses across the country.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD), and novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) is a viral respiratory disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). It was first detected during the 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Rescue Plan in January

The Connect Airways consortium, owner of Flybe, Virgin Atlantic, and the Stobart and Cyrus funds, saved Flybe from bankruptcy more than a year ago, but failed to return it to profitability. The announcement came at a time when the British media argued that the company could run out of cash if it did not get a £100 million loan from the government.

After a bailout package was announced in January by the UK government, which also promised to revise taxes on airline tickets in the budget to be published on March 11, competitors Flybe— Ryanair and IAG, the parent company of British Airways— protested against what they considered to be anti-competitive and illegal subsidies. The government justified its decision to save Flybe by the fact that the airline plays an important role in domestic routes and in the economic life of many regions.

This time, Westminster decided not to intervene, provoking the anger of the company, which accused it of not “learning the lessons” from the terrible bankruptcy of tour operator Thomas Cook last year, and Monarch Airlines in 2017. In a press release, the government said it is “standing by” to help affected passengers.

“The vast majority of Flybe routes are served by other modes of transportation, and we have asked bus and rail operators to accept discounted tickets from Flybe and other airlines so passengers can travel as smoothly as possible,” the UK  government spokesman added. The executive said it is also exploring the possibility of restoring services that have not previously been provided by other airlines.

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, said “this is a sad day for UK aviation and we know that Flybe’s decision to stop trading will be very distressing for all of its employees and customers.”

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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