Following its merger with BA Connect (British Airways' regional division) budget carrier Flybe is now Europe's largest regional airline.
What it also means is that, except for a few key feeder routes into London from the likes of Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, BA has deserted the regions. All direct flights between the regions and mainland Europe plus the regional cross-country links have been absorbed into the network of Exeter-based Flybe.
The new schedules take effect from March 25. But Flybe has decided to axe 14 routes previously operated by BA Connect and it will ditch all the BA Connect flights out of Bristol.
Fortunately, other carriers are already operating these routes or have announced plans to start new services. For example, Easyjet already competes with BA Connect out of Bristol to Paris CDG, Edinburgh and Glasgow while Bmibaby has announced new routes from Birmingham. But passengers used to flying the likes of, say, Bristol-Frankfurt, Birmingham-Berlin or Manchester-Vienna have no alternatives at the time of writing.
Also on the losing end are members of BA's Executive Club who now have fewer opportunities to earn miles, status points and so on.
But there is some good news. Fares on the significant number of BA Connect routes retained by Flybe are lower than before. And Flybe is launching a number of new services from March 25.
Many of these are aimed at leisure travellers. But business people will approve of a new Flybe route to Paris CDG from Southampton which will provide much needed competition to incumbent carrier Air France. Flybe will also fly from this user-friendly Hampshire airport to Frankfurt. And it will begin serving Paris CDG from Cardiff from April 29.
BA is retaining a 15 per cent stake in Flybe and is providing £96 million in funding for Flybe to operate its fleet of planes (some of which are uneconomical for budget airline operation) during the transition period.
Report by Alex McWhirter