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Flybe to start Avios-earning services to Heathrow in March 2017?

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According to reports in The Scotsman, Flybe is about to announce flights to Heathrow from Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

This is not as crazy as you might think, because the cost to Flybe is limited.

We need to go back to the acquisition of bmi British Midland by British Airways in 2012.  As part of the competition remedies put in place at the time, BA had to make certain Heathrow landing and take-off slots available to allow competing services to launch to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Flybe 350

Virgin picked up these slots and launched its ill-fated Little Red services.  These were well-run flights (I reviewed one here) but hampered by the costs of wet-leasing aircraft and crew from Aer Lingus.  A lot of the passengers towards the end were Head for Points readers who were attracted by being able to status match their BA card to Virgin Flying Club if they took one Little Red flight ……

Little Red was closed last Autumn.  The Heathrow slots reverted to British Airways but had to be made available if a new competitor came forward who wanted to run flights from Edinburgh and/or Aberdeen.  And here comes Flybe …..

If the reports are accurate, the Flybe services will begin in March 2017.  The Little Red flights went from Terminal 2 at Heathrow and it is likely that the Flybe services will go there – which means that the excellent Plaza Premium departure lounge will be available for anyone with a Priority Pass.  Only Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 are set up to cater for domestic passengers.

Don’t forget that you will be able to earn and redeem Avios on these services as Flybe uses Avios as its loyalty programme.  Because Flybe awards Avios based on £ spent, it is likely that non-status BA passengers would earn more Avios on pricey peak time flights on Flybe than they would on BA …..  This article outlines how to earn and spend Avios on Flybe.

Can Flybe make a go of this where Virgin failed?

It is possible they don’t care.  Here’s why.

This is what the European Commission said when it ruled on the BA / bmi divestments originally:

As a general rule, the slots obtained by a prospective entrant must be operated on the city pair(s) for which they have been requested from IAG and cannot be used on another city pair unless the prospective entrant has operated them during at least six full consecutive IATA seasons (“the Utilisation Period”). The prospective entrant would be deemed to have grandfathering rights for the slots once appropriate use of the slots has been made on the city pairs at issue, for the Utilisation Period. Once the Utilisation Period has elapsed, the prospective entrant would be entitled to use the slots obtained on the basis of the Commitments exclusively to operate services on any route connecting London with any other part of Europe (including Aberdeen and Edinburgh), or on London-Moscow, London-Cairo and London-Riyadh.

Assuming that the above rules are still in place, if Flybe runs these services for three years it can close down the routes and retain the slots.  These slots could only be used for flights to Europe, Moscow, Cairo or Riyadh which is why Virgin did not bother to stick it out.

For Flybe, however, the attraction of being able to pick up some very valuable Heathrow slots  and being able to cherry pick which European cities it flies to (once the three years is up) may have been too good to resist.

Comments (58)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Jeff says:

    Oh no. FlyMayBe. The worst airline for Avios redemptions.
    Forget Avios, just Avoid.

    • Rob says:

      If you’re taking a suitcase they are better value for redemptions, because you get the free suitcase which would otherwise cost (a lot) extra on a cash ticket. They are rarely great deals if you are on hand baggage, unless you value the flexibility to cancel.

      • Jeff says:

        Their “taxes & charges” on Avios redemptions are on occasion higher than (and often similar to) the regular cash fare. I have experience, thus proof.

        However, naturally it’s each to their own. I’m just providing some insight for those who may be interested.

      • Simon Schus says:

        Yup, just booked an Avios seat on FlyBe where I’d need luggage anyway. The cash cost is 50% cheaper using Avios than buying on FlyBe with luggage. I was comfortable with spending the 4500 Avios (though it is nice when they do a 25% FlyBe redemption sale as they did back in March 2016).

  • Andrew says:

    Looking forward to this. Ideally with Embraer aircraft rather than the Q400s.

  • David says:

    Surprised to be reading the griping comments. We’re always mightily impressed with them and i’m sure they come out top on punctuality and customer service ratings. Suppose people will be more inclined to post when they have a bad experience however. Great news for Scottish travellers and i believe the Welsh are served well also.

    • Alan says:

      Depends, really – if we just end up with BA EDI-LHR flights being converting to FlyBe there might be some minor price competition but I can’t see much of a positive apart from that. In fact could be more of a pain if looking for redemption seats to connect onto long-haul BA flight.

      • David says:

        FlyBe work with long haul partners on codeshare agreements so having more choice in destinations would be the main positive. EDI – LHR flights will be free on long haul BA so no need to use Flybe here

        • Alan says:

          Codeshares aren’t normally an option for redemption flights though, therefore they wouldn’t help for connecting onto VS services (which is a real shame since Little Red went) and if BA give up some of their existing EDI services then it would further reduce connecting redemption options with BA.

        • Jeff says:

          Interesting. I assumed the same (“free” domestic connections) however – and again I have proof – BA does charge increased taxes (higher than RFS) for the domestic add-on flight required to connect to long haul redemptions. “Free” avios for the domestic connection – yes, but increased taxes on the same flight x 2 (rtn).

      • James67 says:

        IMO there is current insufficient frequency and capacity between EDI and LHR. If flybe use a slot BA is using it will get even worse. The flight exLHR around 18,30 has always been prone to being ditched, especially in winter, leaving a big hole in early evening schedule.

        • Alan says:

          Agreed. I’ve also had massive connection times in stuck in LHR due to lack of redemption availability on domestic connections (even worse for my parents who are Silver rather than Gold!) – wish that Revenue Management could open them up as was the case in bmi days 😉

    • David says:

      Airlines should not bother having a rewards scheme if:
      1. Rewards usually don’t track
      2. The website is v. poor customer experience
      3. It is not easy for the customer to contact them
      4. They don’t bother replying to emails/phone calls

      …would you like me to carry on?

  • Monopolies commission says:

    Unless HAL are also offering a discount on landing fees or these are being subsidised through another means I can’t see this working too well.

    Heathrow moved to fixed landing fees regardless of aircraft size during the bmi days to discourage the use of smaller aircraft. Turobo-prop aircraft are positively rejected due to their operational impact which leaves the E195s that Flybe operate with a capacity of 118 passenger. This compares to BA’s A319/A321s that have somewhere between 132-205 seats (or EasyJets 156 – although they’re not currently operating flights at Heathrow).

    • Andrew says:

      Edinburgh will soon be adding a “peak fee” of £200 per aircraft for operations between 06:45 and 07:15. Plus £2 per passenger for International flights operating at these times betwen June & August

      Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pushing Loganair services to Glasgow.

    • AJ says:

      What operational impact causes turbo-props to be rejected at Heathrow?

      Surely if the airline pays the fee they can use whatever they like?

      • Mike says:

        Wake turbulence.

        Imagine a q400 following an a380.

        The q400 would have to leave extra space ahead of itself for safety, effectively more than one slot for the tiny little plane.

        Keeping LHR jet only maximises capacity.

        • Rob says:

          An A380 requires extra space behind it whatever aircraft is next. This is another of those little secrets they never tell you – an A380 may allow you to pack on twice as many passengers, but the need for a big gap before another plane can take off means that the net increase in passengers carried is not huge.

          • Kinkell says:

            Well, what a lot I’ve learned between props, jets, propulsion, vortices and the economics of landing and taking off slots.

  • Zander says:

    What would be great is if Avios from LGW routes posted before I start using them for any LHR domestic, I am yet to get a single posting and each time I call and they can’t do it.

    I continue to fly with them as they’re the only ones doing the NQY route but Avios posting would, while not essential, be nice.

  • Gulz says:

    Just seen this:
    Wonder how many HfP readers are in a similar position to help others in need. Might be worth a story, Rob!

  • Tony V says:

    OT: Is anyone else missing their VS credit card miles? I have just realised the miles from both my november and december statements havent posted to my flying club account.

    • Alan says:

      Mine were a few weeks late, but did arrive.

    • Genghis says:

      My Virgin Black November points posted a few weeks late and Dec just posted on time. I’m still awaiting Virgin White Nov points. I’ve raised a complaint and probably need to follow it up later this week. If nothing then I will raise a formal complaint and essentially start the process towards FOS (as Virgin Money plc act as the credit broker)

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