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Virgin Atlantic to unveil consortium bid for Flybe today?

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(EDIT: Please do not comment in this article.  Comment in the revised version at the top of the home page or click here as this contains the published facts. Thanks!)

It was reported on Thursday that a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium will announce a bid for Flybe on Friday morning.

This is a complex deal but, at the same time, there is a certain logic to it if the reports are correct.

Various sources state that it is a three-way bid comprising:

  • Virgin Atlantic, which will be the majority shareholder
  • Stobart Group, which is contributing assets but no cash
  • a US private equity group, Cyrus Capital Partners

Virgin to bid for Flybe

Stobart Group will be injecting its Stobart Air business into the new company.  This already operates some Flybe routes under franchise.  You may remember that Stobart Air was publicly considering a bid for Flybe in 2018 but did not go ahead.

Stobart Group also owns London Southend and Carlisle Lake District airports.

Virgin Atlantic gets to protect its codeshare operation which was feeding a lot of business to Virgin’s Manchester hub.  Virgin is under huge pressure at Manchester from Thomas Cook’s long-haul operation and it can’t afford to lose connecting Flybe passengers.

Virgin will, presumably, also get first dibs on the Flybe slots at Heathrow.  The use of these slots is restricted, but they can soon be used for any European destination, Moscow, Cairo or Riyadh.  What Virgin will NOT be doing is trying to feed its Heathrow services with domestic connections, because only Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 can handle domestic flights and Virgin Atlantic is in Terminal 3.

Virgin Atlantic acquisition of Flybe with Stobart Air

Because this is a consortium bid, Flybe will presumably remain a standalone business.  There is likely to be a new board but it should be business as usual for the rest of the staff.

There is a question over whether Avios continues to be used as Flybe’s loyalty currency.  If Flybe is rebranded under a Virgin name there is zero chance, of course.  If the Flybe brand is retained and Virgin’s investment remains just that – a fairly passive investment – then perhaps the Avios option will remain.  Flybe believes that it drives passengers, but of course it is paying Avios Group a decent amount of money and Virgin Atlantic may prefer to keep that payment in-house by awarding Flying Club miles instead.  It would also send an odd message about the position of the new Virgin Group Loyalty Company if Avios remained.

So …. lot’s going on.  Let’s see what the official announcement brings.

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Comments

  1. Charlieface says:

    I think there’s really something in this deal for Virgin. They anyway never did that well as a point to point long haul carrier. Flybe, in contrast to many smaller airlines, hardly competes with others on its routes so they could stitch up those markets for long haul connections. That depends on them creating a solid hub somewhere like MAN.
    As I’ve often said to people, MAN is seriously underrated by airlines as a hub. It’s the only other 2 runway in the UK and it has plenty spare capacity (we won’t mention T1) and excellent transport links, 2hr catchment population is similar to LHR and there’s a lot of high end business and leisure (especially vfr) travel. In respect of N America-Europe it’s located similarly to LHR. Virgin would do well there.

    • filipino_chino says:

      Based in York, it’s the same travelling time to MAN or BHX, but i have to agree MAN has great transport links – we have direct trains and if your flight is delayed, they still allow you to travel (getting your ticket stamped at the airport train station).

      I try and fly from MAN if possible.

      • We’re from Wakefield and the same. Just try and avoid Leeds at all cost.

      • AndyGWP says:

        “we have direct trains and if your flight is delayed, they still allow you to travel (getting your ticket stamped at the airport train station)”

        I never knew this – Is it explained in more detail somewhere (ie. officially)? Hoping to use the train back from my next MAN inbound flight (especially as the outbound is BHX!)

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      I think Man is an excellent airport and while growing significantly it maintains capacity. I was always confused why in the fuss to future proof UK capacity it wasnt given a more prominent role given it’s excellent transport link (road, rail, and tram) and the supposed desire to rebalance the UK economy.

      Not sure it”s 2hr catchment is the same as LHR however. That seems a stretch.

      • ThinkSquare says:

        I can quite believe it. All of the Midlands is within 2 hours of Manchester, as well as pretty much all of the north of England and Wales

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          But within 2hrs of LHR includes a lot of the same Midlands, big cities such as Southampton, Oxford, and Brighton to offset the Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds et al. But crucially it includes by far the biggest city of them all: London.

  2. Landing at T2 and transfers to T3 aren’t impossible.

    They used to bus Little Red pax with onward VS flights from T2 and T3 and they were treated as domestic arrivals with no screening needed. On arrival at T3 they were in main departures lounge.

    Of course that was a small number of flights but the precedent is there.

    • Yep – same concept as the BA targeted service they are offering for short connections – the primary benefit is T5 Domestic to T3 transfers where security isn’t needed but currently happens as you’ve mixed in with the “dirty” arrivals on the bus

      Looking at the FlyBe timings though not sure how useful it would be – most flights arrive in the evening after US flights have left. Perhaps for the morning flights but then it’s more complex to advertise the service.

  3. Virgin life insurance promo 10000 miles from June have now posted.

  4. Ouch.

    “Shareholders in Flybe will receive 1p a share, while the consortium, which also includes venture capital firm Cyrus, will inject £100m.
    Flybe shares closed on Thursday at 16.38p”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46834827

    • Yep. Also “It will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand.”

      BBC says it’s a done deal

    • Not to mention the shares were trading at more than 30p before the profit warning. Ouch indeed. I’m expecting more route cuts from Flybe in the coming weeks.

  5. Kilburnflyer says:

    I would love to see Virgin flying to Athens again but very unlikely in current climate

  6. Colin JE says:

    With the Virgin branding announced it looks like this’ll mean earning Virgin miles and tier points, so maybe more chance to get Silver status and make those upgrade and 2for1 vouchers worthwhile. And if Virgin has a decent points spending scheme on former Flybe routes, like BA reward flight saver, that’ll be a bonus. Excellent news.

  7. Although the BBC says it will operate under the Virgin brand I am not so sure since Stobart have the same share.
    As I understand it Virgin and Stobart have 30% each.
    Eastern Airways must also come into the reckoning as they operate a good number as a franchise partner no longer operating under own name.

    • Virgin owns 0% of Virgin Media but it still uses the brand. East Coast Trains was only 10%. And Virgin only owns 20% of VA after March.

  8. Follow on OT to my this morning’s Marriott Cancun Resort

    Having spoken to hotel, they will indeed charge resort fees of ~$210.
    I have an option to change booking to Westin Resort and Spa in the same hotel zone.
    This is the same category 5 hotel but same number of points needed and online it shows availability.

    I do not want to move my booking just for the sake of resort fees but can anyone offer any advise whether between Marriott and Westin which one should I opt for?
    Staying with family – 4 people.

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