UK regional airline Flybe has become the latest victim of coronavirus, entering administration yesterday. All Flybe flights have been grounded and customers have been told not to travel to the airport.
Flybe has been in financial trouble for some time already, and was purchased by a consortium that included Virgin Atlantic in 2019. The plan was for Flybe to be rebranded as Virgin Connect, feeding passengers into Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network. Just this week, in fact, Virgin Atlantic had added codeshares on dozens of new Flybe routes out of London, Southampton, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Manchester, East Midlands and Edinburgh. There was even speculation that Flybe, under the Virgin Connect brand, could become a Velocity Frequent Flyer partner.
Despite considerable investment by Virgin Atlantic and others, the airline could not be saved.
“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,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said.
Flybe was one of Europe’s largest regional carriers, with a focus on connecting regional UK airports. It operated a fleet of Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Embraer E195 aircraft, and had around 2,000 employees. The Flybe collapse will impact regional UK communities such as Exeter, Southampton and Belfast particularly hard.
Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways and some UK railway operators have offered rescue fares to stranded Flybe customers. easyJet and British Airways are also offering free standby travel to Flybe employees stuck at out-stations.
As demand for air travel plummets amid growing COVID-19 concerns, it is unfortunately likely that Flybe won’t be the last airline to fall victim to this virus. That said, Flybe was already struggling before the coronavirus outbreak. The current situation is just one of many factors that has caused the airline to collapse.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Flybe has collapsed it seems