Virgin Atlantic Sale

Virgin’s plans for Flybe revealed in the official scheme document – and which brand will be used?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

HFP readers in the City may be interested in the formal scheme document for the sale of Flybe to a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium which was published yesterday.  You can download it here (PDF).

If you can wade through the technical pages, there is some interesting information on the state of the business, such as:

“In the absence of the Acquisition and the funding to be provided by the Connect Lenders, the Flybe Directors considered that neither Flybe nor the Flybe Subsidiaries would be able to continue to trade as going concerns. Even absent the Subsidiary Sale (described further below), were Flybe or the Flybe Subsidiaries to have been placed into administration, the Flybe Directors did not believe that an administrator would have been able to operate the business as a going concern and in such circumstances Flybe Shareholders would have been unlikely to have received any value in respect of their Flybe Shares.”

Note that all bolding in this article is mine and does not appear in the original document.

Sale completion is still expected by the long-stop date of 22nd February.

Flybe scheme document

In terms of day to day operation, these are the key paragraphs:

“Connect Airways intends to focus on three principal areas, in relation to the business of the Flybe Group:

simplifying and focusing on improving the performance of Flybe Limited’s core network whilst recognising the importance of regional connectivity;

adjusting Flybe Limited’s network to improve connectivity with Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network, particularly at London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, bringing more choice to customers; and

operating the Combined Group as an independent company, and optimising the combined commercial, operational and functional expertise and scale of Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart Group.

Optimising the Network and Improving Connectivity:

Connect Airways plans to optimise Flybe Limited’s network and operations to focus on key routes with the aim of continuing to enhance regional connectivity across the UK and Ireland.  Connect Airways also intends to bring benefits for customers through linking an enhanced Flybe regional network with Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul operations particularly at Manchester Airport and London Heathrow Airport.


All flying operations except Stobart Air will operate under a Virgin brand to the extent possible. This will be timed to coincide with a refurbishment programme for Flybe Limited’s fleet to provide a seamless customer experience in keeping with Virgin Atlantic’s heritage.

There will be no change to the brands under which Stobart Air flies today which will continue to be maintained and operated separately.”

Separately it says:

Leveraging the expertise of Flybe, Stobart Group and Virgin Atlantic

Through the combination of Flybe and Stobart Air, and partnering with Virgin Atlantic, Connect Airways intends to continue as an independent operating carrier with a separate UK AOC under the Virgin Atlantic brand.  Stobart Air is intended to continue under a separate Irish Air Operator Certificate with its franchise and aircraft leasing operations as exists today.”

Elsewhere it says:

“The network and route optimisation will likely include a limited reduction in the number of Flybe Limited’s aircraft to right size the fleet for the Combined Group going forward.”

What about Flybe’s branding?

This is where it gets interesting, I think.

It was originally announced that the airline would be rebranded as Virgin Atlantic.  I thought this was not incredibly smart, because with the best will in the world it is impossible to bring much of the Virgin ‘sparkle’ to short-haul flights on tiny aircraft.

There is one reference in the document to:

“Connect Airways intends to continue as an independent operating carrier with a separate UK AOC under the Virgin Atlantic brand

However, elsewhere it says:

“All flying operations except Stobart Air will operate under a Virgin brand to the extent possible.  This will be timed to coincide with a refurbishment programme for Flybe Limited’s fleet to provide a seamless customer experience in keeping with Virgin Atlantic’s heritage. There will be no change to the brands under which Stobart Air flies today which will continue to be maintained and operated separately.”

There is one reference to the fact that the Virgin Atlantic brand will be used.  However, there is another reference to “a Virgin brand” being used – which logically may not necessarily be Virgin Atlantic.  Perhaps Virgin Little Red (see the mock-up branding above from a few years ago) will return!  Let’s see.

ENDS TUESDAY: Get 2p per point using 'Part Pay With Avios' for five days only
Behind the scenes on the new British Airways TV ad
Click here to join the 14,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

IHG Sale
Amazon ad
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Seems like quite a broad update.
    ‘Enhanced’ could mean literally anything, but reckon it could become more MAN focused. The rest of it, I’d expect loss-making routes to be culled aggressively.
    Don’t think there will be ever huge profits in it for the medium term, but as one big flying advertisement for Virgin it could make sense.

  2. Little red didn’t work so not sure why this will.

    And it is Gatwick that needs linking to Manchester for long haul. LHR already is.

    • Because Little Red was a brand new airline? This is an existing airline that already has a customer base.

      • What is true, though, is that Little Red was a) very pleasant to fly, b) went into Heathrow, c) sold tickets very cheaply and d) was throwing massive bribes at people, eg a BA Gold card holder was given a Virgin Gold card for taking one Little Red flight.

        And it still failed….

        • You missed out:-

          (e) Forgot that the “Bread & Butter” of the EDI-London route was the Domestic passenger, not the Heathrow connections.

          This was the evening return timetable:-

          VS3009 LHR1625 – 1755EDI
          VS3011 LHR1950 – 2120EDI

          The 16:25 was too early for a day’s business in London.
          The 19:50 was too late back.

          With Flybe serving both London City & Heathrow, it’s a more flexible

          17:40 & 19:15 from LCY
          18:20 & 20:45 from Heathrow

        • Andrew, I’d agree with that, but FlyBe then throw away their opportunity to capitalise on this by using small noisy propeller planes on these routes rather than their Embraers.

        • It depends on what your requirements were to begin with. I flew regularly with Virgin Little Red (Man-LHR) and towards the end, the flights were 90-95% capacity

          That, to me, wasn’t a failure.

          Now, if Virgin / Delta wanted them as a feeder to Trans atlantic flights from the provincials, then, yes, a complete failure. This was somewhat Naive, it has to be said. Virgin had a fantastic opportunity to provide real competition to the monopoly that BA hold on routes like LHR-MAN, and should have used this as a measure as well as the feeder requirement

        • Chris L says:

          The Dash 8s aren’t that bad on a short flight. The small size means 2×2 seating and you get on and off quickly. Yes, the Embraers are more pleasant but most business travellers on short haul want their flight at the right time and don’t care about the aircraft type. Most other considerations are secondary.
          Little Red failed partly because they were wet leasing from Aer Lingus at high cost. This won’t be the case with Flybe.
          Will be interesting to see what they do with the substantial route network Flybe babe from Birmingham.

        • “eg a BA Gold card holder was given a Virgin Gold card for taking one Little Red flight.“

          Pricks up ears…. 🙂

        • I wasn’t flying much at that time but did maybe half a dozen Little Red flights while they operated. They had better bacon rolls than BA in the morning and Bombay Sapphire instead of Gordon’s Gin for the return and were in no way shy about handing them out.

          Plus, they were v cheap and the loads on EDI-LHR were so poor you often got a row to yourself.

          Commercial suicide, but for a passenger it was great while it lasted (much like BMI, really).

    • Little Red may not have worked but hopefully they can learn from that, Flybe didn’t work either so regardless of the name a new strategy needs to be put in place to make them profitable

  3. Travel Strong says:

    The back end operations and philosophies will need to be burnt to the ground and built back up with Virgin style customer satisfaction focus, rather than short sighted flight cancellations due to loads. Continuing the Flymaybe logic would destroy Virgin’s image.

    • And completely overhaul their GDS/DCScontract , as Flybe was in the process of migrating to Altea, which Virgin doesn’t use according to public sources

  4. Scottydogg says:

    Flybe dont seem to be doing themselves any favours at the moment , hitting everyone for charges to check-in their slightly over sized carry on bags , bags that used to be fine to bring on.
    Is this just one last ditch attempt at getting some money into the bank to keep the lights on ?

  5. chris1922 says:

    Slightly off topic, but related.

    My regular account has now been closed; last week I flew BHX – GLA with Flybe. Where do my Avios go ? There was a double Avios promo on. As it happens, I only had 1 solitary Avios in my account, as I had regularly been “combining” them. What happens to it ?
    Also, if I was to collect regular Avios via e-rewards or Rewards for thoughts (as I used to do), where do they go ?
    Nothing has appeared in my BAEC as yet, over a week now.

    • My Avios closed last week too and had 3k in there from my Lloyd’s card. Hasn’t transferred to my BAEC so I’m going to ring them up

    • I spoke to them about this. The Flybe Avios will end up in your account, and they say they are doing regular sweeps of the closed accounts to move things across to your BAEC account. In my case, that is a second BA account they erroneously set up for me, so the transfer will in turn be merged into my normal BAEC balance. In theory…!

      Don’t expect the Avios from your Flybe flight to turn up any time soon though, normally takes about a month.

      You can always phone them up, the person I spoke to at was very helpful and could see all the activity (and the orphaned Avios) on my ‘closed’ account.

      • chris1922 says:

        Lovely, thanks for update. Both erewards and rewards for thoughts said I would be able to link their rewards to BAEC Avios, but not seen any evidence of that yet.

  6. ankomonkey says:

    VS-related: Someone on FT has posted that VS will start flying to TLV/Tel Aviv from September.

  7. OT : Iberia swapped planes yesterday on IB3166 from an A340 to A350 Madrid Heathrow.
    Screen was very good in business but didn’t like my seat 8J too close to the seat the other side of the aisle, the row 7 widow seat would have been a lot more private…..

  8. Slightly O/T but I’ve seen speculation that Virgin might be candidates to take on some or all of Thomas Cook – any thoughts?

    • A lot of it is Condor in Germany which they won’t want.

      45% of passengers on Thomas Cook are going on a Thomas Cook package holiday and 25% are on other package holidays. Only 30% of seats are sold direct. This doesn’t make it hugely attractive.

      Virgin wants them out of the way at Manchester but I doubt it wants to buy them.

      • Peter K says:

        It’d be a shame if Thomas Cook airlines go, they are one of the few that properly cater for a gluten free diet.

  9. Avios are “sweeping” from to BAEC on a semi-regular basis. It seems to work.

    Your 2-4-1 coupon from Lloyds will not migrate so using it got trickier

    • There is no such thing as a 241 from Lloyds

      • I thought there used to be for their premium card, not sure though

      • Brian W says:

        Utter rubbish John, I have two Lloyds 241 vouchers in my account just now.

        You need to brush up on the old versions of the Lloyds cards.

    • Join Aer Club. Keep a handful of points in retains full functionality. I can see my upgrade vouchers, and recently booked a flight using one of them.

  10. How flexible is Virgin Atlantic’s licence to use the Virgin brand? Would they have to always use the Atlantic part of their name (as their previous UK domestic operation’s logo shows “Virgin Atlantic Little Red”, not “Virgin Little Red”)?

    If “Little Red” used A320s should the flybe fleet not be called “Tiny Red”?

  11. the_real_a says:

    Do they get to ditch any liabilities as part of the deal? I was under the impression that they deeply regretted the price they paid on the Embraer leases.

    • One has gone and anther has been renegotiated, looking at the docs. That is most of the problem dealt with.

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.