Last night, airline Flybe unfortunately went into administration, putting over 2,500 jobs at risk after a bid for fresh financial support failed, and coronavirus threats placed more uncertainty on the airline.
Flybe planes were ‘impounded at UK airports’ on Wednesday night and passengers were turned away amid fears the airline had collapsed. Planes were not refuelled once they landed at their airport destinations, and the official Flybe website was also down with an error message saying “no longer live” as of 11:00pm.
The low-cost European carrier had been hit by a slump in bookings since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Insiders told the BBC the coronavirus impact on travel “made a bad situation much worse”.
“It has been in a pretty precarious position for a while — it doesn’t take much to push it over the edge.”
It was reported that Flybe would wait for the last scheduled flight to land on Wednesday before formally putting the business into administration overnight.
It’s expected to cease operations with immediate effect.
The collapse of the airline will of course be distressing for its 2,500 staff, but also for many of the UK’s regional airports – 95% of every flight that takes off and lands at Southampton airport is operated by Flybe, for example.
Belfast, Exeter, Jersey, Cardiff, Guernsey, Aberdeen and Birmingham also rely on the airline.
In a letter to the airline’s staff, chief executive Mark Anderson said: “Despite every effort, we now have no alternative – having failed to find a feasible solution to allow us to keep trading.
“I am very sorry that we have not been able to secure the funding needed to continue to deliver our turnaround,” he added.
An airline already experiencing difficulties
The airline carrier was taken over by Connect Airways — a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital — in 2019 to prevent administration.
In January, the new owners said they would pump £30m into the business, but appealed to the government for additional support.
According to the FT, which first reported the news, the airline believed it had enough financial resources to survive until the end of March 2020.
Flybe has been in discussions with the government about a loan of up to £100m to help it bridge the period of quiet in winter – when airlines typically lose money – to the richer pickings in summer. However, Whitehall officials have commented that the airline has not met certain criteria set by the government.
The situation was complicated after Flybe mortgaged the majority of its remaining assets — including buildings, equipment and intellectual property — to its owners last year. This made it more difficult for the UK government to provide a loan on commercial terms.
Flybe is said to have also requested government support in recent days, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Last year Flybe carried 8 million passengers and 40% of its flights were UK domestic.
The airline’s biggest operations are at Exeter, Manchester and Birmingham airports which will all be hardest hit if the firm goes into administration.
Flybe served around 170 destinations and has a major presence at UK airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton.
It flies the most UK domestic routes between airports outside London.
The British Airline Association Pilots’ (BALPA) tweeted:
“Extremely concerning reports about Flybe. Everybody’s thoughts are with the staff tonight.”
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said:
“The collapse of Flybe is disastrous news for passengers and employees alike and will cause real anxiety in many regions throughout the country.”
“The Civil Aviation Authority is sadly very well practised, following the collapse of Monarch and Thomas Cook, at responding to airline failure and looking after passengers. No doubt they will do that once more.
“Yet again more airline workers face an anxious future and the Government has to respond and provide them with all necessary support.
“Flybe has provided critical connectivity for many locations throughout the country especially where there is currently no realistic transport alternative other than flying.
“The Government has to answer how those vital links will be maintained following Flybe’s collapse. Communities will be concerned about what this will mean for their local economies and the Secretary of State has to come up with answers to these questions as a matter of urgency.”
A Blue Islands spokesperson also said:
“Blue Islands is saddened by the closure of Flybe. Our thoughts are with the staff, passengers, industry colleagues and wider stakeholders of the business affected at this difficult time.
We wish to thank all of our passengers and airport partners for their patience and support during this transitional period.”
As has been the case over the last year or so for a number of airlines, this news likely comes as a great shock to staff at Flybe and our thoughts are with you all. If you are concerned about your future following this news, please take a look on Aviation Job Search and hopefully we can help you find something.
Image: Flybe media