Virgin Atlantic is in discussions with troubled regional carrier Flybe over a possible takeover, according to a report by Sky News.

Earlier this month Flybe confirmed it was talking to “a number of strategic operators” about a possible sale of the group, following a fall in pre-tax profits of 54 per cent to £7.4m in the six months to the end of September.

According to Sky News sources at Virgin said that “the transatlantic airline was pursuing an interest in Flybe because of the opportunities a tie-up would provide to feed passenger traffic into Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network, as well as its access to valuable take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow Airport which are ring-fenced for domestic flights”.

Virgin previously launched domestic operations under subsidiary Little Red in 2013, but the carrier closed just two years later, with Sir Richard Branson blaming the “meagre package of slots” awarded by the European Commission.

Flybe and Virgin already codeshare on a number of routes, with the agreement having been extended last year to include Flybe’s services from between Heathrow and the Scottish cities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Virgin also recently joined the Worldwide by Easyjet programme, allowing customers to self-connect between the two carriers at Gatwick airport.

This week Flybe announced plans to move its domestic route between Cornwall and London, from Gatwick to Heathrow airport next year.,