Flybe entered administration and ceased all flights last night, following months of uncertainty for the UK’s largest regional carrier.
A statement on the airline’s website currently advises customers not to travel to the airport “unless you have arranged an alternative flight with another airline”.
Flybe had managed to avoid collapse in January after it had been announced that the carrier had reached an agreement with the UK government, leading to consortium owners Connect Airways to inject further cash into the airline.
But continued uncertainty over the details of this agreement, along with a downturn in trading as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, led to the carrier grounding all flights on Wednesday evening.
Business Traveller has been provided with a statement from Virgin Atlantic – part owner of the Connect Airways consortium:
“We are deeply disappointed that Flybe has been unable to secure a viable basis for its continuing operations and has therefore entered administration.
“Virgin Atlantic, along with Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital Partners, formed the Connect Airways consortium which intervened in 2019 to prevent the collapse of Flybe and keep Europe’s largest regional airline flying.
“With customers and staff at the front of our minds, over the past 14 months the consortium has invested more than £135m to keep the airline flying for an extra year, maintaining 2,400 people in employment and ensuring customers could keep travelling.
“This amount includes approximately £25 million of the £30 million committed in January 2020, alongside a Time to Pay arrangement with HM Treasury for Air Passenger Duty to the value of £3.8 million.
“Sadly, despite the efforts of all involved to turn the airline around, not least the people of Flybe, the impact of COVID-19 on Flybe’s trading means that the consortium can no longer commit to continued financial support.
“As a priority we are looking at options to provide support to Flybe staff and to assist affected customers. Impacted Virgin Atlantic customers should SMS 07481 339184 for the latest advice, while Flybe customers should refer to the Civil Aviation Authority website at www.caa.co.uk/news for more information.”
Train firms LNER, Hull Trains, Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Avanti West Coast have said they will offer free standard tickets to anyone with a booking as well as staff to help them get home today (Thursday March 5).
Meanwhile Easyjet will offer a rescue fee for customers until the end of May, with fares for £65 (including a 15kg bag) available when a Flybe booking is presented.
Eastern Airways, which operates on a franchise basis on behalf of Flybe, said: “Our flights will continue to operate as normal and we advise passengers to arrive at their airports on time today. We will honour any tickets on Flybe services operated by Eastern Airways for travel today, Friday or Sunday. Further updates for flights next week will follow.”
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has posted several tweets in the last few hours:
“Very sad that @flybe has gone out of business after serving passengers for four decades.
“Government staff will be on hand at UK airports ready to assist and we’re working with airline, train and bus operators to help people find alternative ways home.
“We are also urgently working with industry to identify how key routes can be re-established by other airlines as soon as possible.
“And we’ll be working with @flybe staff to help them find new work in travel or other industries.”
The Airport Operators Association has also released a statement, with CEO Karen Dee saying:
“Flybe played a critical and unique role in the UK aviation system, supporting the development of the regions by providing essential connectivity that no other airline or other mode of transport offered. Its domestic and international network also helped to unlock the tourism potential of those regions.
“There was a crucial role for Government to safeguard vital domestic connectivity. The announcements in January of a review into Air Passenger Duty and Regional Air Connectivity were seen as a sign that the Government understood the vital importance of regional connectivity and the damaging impact of APD. It is extremely disappointing that just a few weeks on, the promised urgent action has not led to a workable solution and that the reviews have made no progress.
“The Government now needs to urgently step up to the plate to help UK regions recover from this major blow. The economic and social value of regional aviation connectivity is impossible to overestimate, with thousands of jobs in every UK region relying directly or indirectly on their local airports and their route networks.”