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Flybe enters administration – what happens next?

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Flybe has finally collapsed tonight, after the Government refused additional requests for emergency funding.

The website went down around 10.45pm:

Flybe enters administration

And here is the official notice issued at Glasgow Airport, impounding one of their aircraft for non-payment of fees (click to enlarge):

Flybe enters administration

The last aircraft to land was due to be BE7308 from Hannover to Manchester at around 10.30pm.

If you saw my BBC TV interview on Tuesday, you will know that I mentioned Flybe when asked about airlines which I thought may collapse.  I felt a bit guilty about saying this, since I know many of the senior team there, but it was not exactly the sort of guess which required an industry expert.

The Financial Times had reported earlier that the Government had rejected the original request by the airline for a £100 million loan.  Whilst it was possible that Flybe would have benefited from changes to Air Passenger Duty in the budget next week, this may have been too little too late.  Any changes would have taken time to implement, and there is even talk of the budget being postponed in full as coronavirus is making financial planning difficult for the Government.

By the time you read this we will probably have the full picture.  The airline does not night-stop any aircraft, I believe, so all of the assets should have been back on UK soil late tonight unless any were impounded abroad.

This is not necessarily the end:

Will Virgin Atlantic buy the airline from the administrators?  (Difficult, given that it would have to resume trading at a time when no-one is booking.)

What will happen to the regional airports which are dependent on Flybe to keep operating?  Look at this list (some of these are franchised Flybe flights which will continue):

Anglesey – 100% Flybe 

Southampton – 95% Flybe

Belfast City – 80% Flybe

Exeter – 78% Flybe

Newquay – 66% Flybe

Wick – 59% Flybe

Jersey – 57% Flybe

Cardiff – 52% Flybe

Guernsey – 50% Flybe

Isle of Man – 49% Flybe

Does British Airways get back the ex-bmi Heathrow slots which it was forced to divest to Virgin Little Red and then Flybe?

Who will pick up the two routes which are operated under public subsidy?

Are the Stobart assets ring-fenced from the administration – and if not, what happens to the flights that Stobart runs under contract for Aer Lingus?

And who will fill the Hampton by Hilton Exeter Airport every night, which was only built after Flybe guaranteed to provide most of the guests via people who were at its training academy next door?!

There is, somewhere inside Flybe, a small and profitable regional airline which is not weighed down the financial and physical baggage of a history of failed expansion.

Whether Virgin Atlantic is the one to put this back together remains to be seen, but I would imagine that the profitable routes are not the ones which would provide Virgin with feed.

For the rest of the airline industry, there is no good news here.  The biggest winners from Flybe’s collapse, if the pieces are not picked up, will be the train companies and petrol stations.  In the meantime, the public will become even more paranoid about booking flight tickets.   If Norwegian follows in the next couple of weeks then there really will be a crisis of confidence.

EDIT:  We have now added a new article covering the announcements from Loganair, Eastern and Blue Islands as they pick up ex-Flybe routes.

Comments (195)

  • Alex Sm says:

    I have a booking with them for August, contacted Amex to check my options. Amex was prepared to trigger Section 75 dispute but advised to hold until we hear from the airline. I still hope for rebooking options or for Virgin’s magic intervention as they (FlyBe) were half-way down the journey towards Virgin Connect and this can’t just end like this, Virgin needs to play a more proactive role at the time of the crisis…

  • TripleB says:

    Flybe had a Dusseldorf crew base in mid-2018. I don’t know if it has since closed but it definitely existed in mid-2018 and they used to overnight a couple of -8s there.

    • TripleB says:

      It looks like G-PRPD (a -8) is still in DUS after arriving on the late flight from BHX last night.

  • Michael C says:

    …and of course paid for my mum’s Easter flight from IoM about 2 days ago…along with a million quid for the bl**dy suitcase!

  • pauldb says:

    Lots of their flights are operated by others. Blue Islands are still going to be operating services and in fact putting on some extras (for free). The percentages for SOU, JER and GCI are therefore not as high as stated.

    No word from Stobart Air about the flights they op.

  • TripRep says:

    Sadly not a surprise. I think this could hit Virgin too, considering cancelling my flights with them as FlyBE were going to be the feeder.

  • Chris L says:

    Birmingham Airport statement on Flybe: “…we already have arrangements for two airlines to replace five of its routes in the next few weeks.” Clearly they knew this was coming. I think the total was about 20 routes but many of the key ones (EDI,GLA,AMS,CDG,DUS) were already served by more than one carrier.

    • Alex Sm says:

      Any insights who might replace it on London Southend to Guernsey route? Aurigny is there but from LGW, twice as expensive and without a refuelling stop on Jersey

  • BJ says:

    “There is, somewhere inside Flybe, a small and profitable regional airline”

    Seems logical to me. Maybe I’m being too naive and simplistic but the way I see it FlyBE had 3 main problems: too much ambition at expense of core strength, aircraft that were too large resulting in a mismatch between capacity and demand on many routes, and operating a LCC model. By contrast a profitable and sustainable UK regional airline might be better served by restricting its ambition to the UK, operating smaller aircraft like the BAe Jetstream which can be more easily filled, and offering a simple but sustainable fare structure with no gimmicks. Routes that could sustain such would continue while those that cannot get shelved.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      There is within Norwegian a smaller and profitable or potentially profitable European short haul airline, too. I wonder if this can survive.

  • HayMow says:

    BIL bought tickets with them well under 24hrs ago – take it he can’t cancel for a refund under cooling off rules in this situation?

    • Shoestring says:

      chargeback via credit card co

      • Shoestring says:

        one of the reasons Flybe was facing cashflow problems was that the credit card cos were protecting themselves against Section 75 claims in future by not releasing Flybe’s money to them immediately

        same as with Thomas Cook

        so that’s why it will be easy to request chargeback

        • Philip says:

          This was posted on a Business Traveller forum, and might be helpful :-

          • Genghis says:

            I’d be going for S75 in such circs.

          • Shoestring says:

            sure, if they still want to take the flight and it’s more expensive elsewhere

            ie force credit card co to pay the difference plus any consequential losses

          • Alex Sm says:

            Guys, can you explain properly please? It looks a bit confusing from your comments but might be relevant to my situation. I had flights to Guernsey booked (£60 each) and now the cheapest is Aurigny – ca £100 for the same dates. Does this mean that credit card company will cover more expensive tickets? I am a bit sceptical…

          • Genghis says:

            @Alex Sm S75 doesn’t apply as <£100. Ie. Chargeback only with no consequential loss element, ie you may get the £60 back but you’re paying the £100 out your own pocket.

        • HayMow says:

          Thanks Shoestring et al for all the info, I’ll let the BIL know. Sadly not a route any other airline flies so we’ll see.

      • BJ says:

        OT @Shoestring: thanks for headship on ins. yesterday, saw it late last might. I’ll only get benefit of two TAF this time as my partner has the insurance and will want the £ since no avios 🙂

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