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Flybe is back – and I was on the first flight

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Yesterday Flybe (re)launched flights with an inaugural BE404 8:55am service from Birmingham International to Belfast City.

I was on it. After a two year absence, we wanted to see what Flybe has to offer.

The Flybe website is here.

New Flybe first flight

A quick recap of Flybe’s history

The past five years have been anything but smooth for Flybe, which has its roots in Jersey European Airways, founded in 1979. In 2000, the airline was renamed British European before another rebrand in 2002, as Flybe.

Here’s a quick timeline of the past 15 years:

…. which takes us up to the present day.

As you can see, Flybe has had more than its fair share of ups and downs.

In the last fifteen years, Flybe went from being the largest regional airline in Europe to the verge of collapse, only to be saved by a consortium led by Cyrus Capital, before being saved from collapse by the Government in early 2020.

The airline then collapsed – for real this time – in March 2020, before being resurrected by Cyrus Capital two years later.

There is another story to be told about why Flybe collapsed – driven by poor fleet choices, including adding Embraer jet aircraft, and picking unnecessary fights with airlines such as Loganair on certain routes – but that is for another day.

What has changed at (new) Flybe?

Virtually everything, as it turns out. Whilst the brand and Heathrow Summer slots were retained, a new management team was brought in. It is, in effect, a brand-new startup.

Flybe has re-leased some of its former De Havilland Dash 8-400 aircraft (fortunately, not that many other UK / European airlines use this type of aircraft and they had not all found new homes). They have had a fresh lick of paint and, as you will see, reupholstered interiors.

Booking my Flybe launch flights

As part of its launch, Flybe ran a twenty-four hour sale with £10 off flight bookings. As I had nowhere better to be on a Wednesday in mid April, Rob thought he would book me on the very first commercial Flybe flight in two years – the 8:55am departure from Birmingham to Belfast City.

We managed to grab one of the £19.99 one-way sale fares. In general, Flybe’s pricing now starts from £34.99 one-way.

Checking in to my Flybe flight

As you would expect, there were festivities for the new flight. Flybe’s bag drop and check in area in Birmingham were in Zone B, where a balloon arch had been set up. Here is CEO Dave Pflieger plus some colleagues:

New Flybe first flight

Plenty of Flybe staff members were taking photos, as you can see, so I thought I’d give it a go too:

New Flybe first flight

There were no queues to check-in and I was seen straight away, which was a pleasant change.

Flybe check in Birmingham

There were, unfortunately, gigantic queues for security at Birmingham Airport, although this is largely out of Flybe’s control.

There wasn’t a whole lot of activity at the gate, although plenty of avgeeks in attendance watching the aircraft arrive.

New Flybe first flight

There was more of a celebration as we boarded, with various media and film crews as well as staff from Flybe and De Havilland, amongst others. The entire Flybe senior leadership team was on the flight. Goody bags were being distributed:

New Flybe first flight

I managed to get a photo op as I boarded:

Flybe inaugural rhys

What are Flybe’s De Havilland Dash 8-400s like?

Like old Flybe, new Flybe’s fleet is based around the De Havilland Dash 8-400 (bit of a mouthful, I know). The Dash 8-400 is a turboprop aircraft with open rotors vs the turbofan architecture of most modern aircraft:

Flybe inaugrual media

One of the benefits of the Dash 8-400 is that (according to the De Havilland employee sat behind me) it is 35% more efficient versus comparable jets such as the Embraer E190 flown by BA CityFlyer.

It’s definitely smaller than your average-sized aircraft. At 6’2″ I didn’t quite touch the ceiling but I was close:

Flybe dash 8-400 height

The aircraft has a 2-2 configuration with 78 seats in total:

Flybe aircraft seats interior

All seats are the same. There is no business class, although you can opt for the front row which has extra legroom.

Whilst the aircraft and seats were older, they had all been reupholstered with this smart new blue and purple leather. I particularly like the purple seat belts.

Flybe economy seating

The seating is noticeably tighter than you would find on an A320 – you really are shoulder to shoulder. On the other hand, the leg room was pretty good – better, I think, than Ryanair / easyJet etc:

Flybe legroom

One word of warning – I was disappointed to find that there was no window in row eleven (see photo above). Row ten, on the other hand, gets two.

The aircraft also had a new upgraded LED lighting system.

Just before take-off CEO Dave Pflieger gave a few words of welcome over the PA system, thanking everyone on the team.

Flybe CEO Dave Pflieger speech

Do you get free drinks with Flybe?

Yes. I was surprised to hear that Flybe was offering complimentary soft drinks and biscuits on the flight, similar to what BA now offers on its short haul flights.

You can choose between water, tea, coffee and juice, whilst there is also a choice of biscuits:

Flybe free refreshments

There are no other food or drink options. Because the flight is so short the crew had a bit of trouble trying to serve the whole cabin before landing, and the pilots had to ease off the accelerator a little!

Arriving at Belfast City

Despite that we arrived in Belfast City five minutes early and were greeted by a water cannon salute.

As Belfast City is Flybe’s second base we were greeted by the regional team, including the Belfast City cabin crew who are ready and prepped to start flights in the coming days.

Belfast City is a delightful airport to arrive in, and very similar in size to London City. You can be through within minutes and it’s just ten minutes or so into Belfast itself – much more convenient than Belfast International.


Most Flybe flights going forward won’t be quite as dramatic as this one, but it looks like the airline is starting from a strong position. There is decent legroom and complimentary in-flight refreshments for all passengers, which was a pleasant surprise.

The Dash 8-400s are cramped, but on the flipside they are 35% more fuel efficient than E190 jets which isn’t to be sniffed at. They are only slightly slower on domestic flights than a jet aircraft – on average, just five to ten minutes.

Fingers crossed we see Flybe 2.0 (or should it be 3.0?) succeed where its predecessors couldn’t. It is fighting an uphill battle – the competitive environment has changed a lot, with airlines such as Loganair, Emerald Airlines (as a franchisee for Aer Lingus Regional) and Eastern now offering competition on many of Flybe’s old routes. Good luck to them.

You can find out more and book tickets on the Flybe website here. You can find the full list of 23 Flybe routes, along with start dates, in this HfP article.

Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.

Comments (67)

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

  • Pablo says:

    What was in the goody bag?

  • TimM says:

    “I particularly like the purple seat belts”. I do like a random opinion in a review.

    The efficiency of turboprop vs turbofan depends upon altitude and distance. It is a question of impedance-matching (as many things are). For shorter hops at lower altitudes the prop has the advantage.

    My favourite short-hop was the Olympic Air Dash-8 between Athens and Kalamata, similarly barely time to serve a glass of orange juice before landing and great fun. Sadly no more and I cannot recall the colour of their seatbelts.

    • Willmo says:

      Shame the flight is no more. I was hoping to avoid the three and half hour drive this summer.

      • TimM says:

        Olympic (now Aegean) still fly from Thessaloniki to Kalamata, when they feel like it. In practice, I have never found their times convenient with a UK connection. I have done it twice with a hotel stay. I don’t drive so it is a three-bus, all-day journey for me from Athens to the Mani. Apparently, before the new EU-funded motorway, it used to take two full days. I would much prefer the little Dash ATH-KLX.

    • George K says:

      OA still does a Dash-8 flight (the 100 variant, no less!) between Rhodes and the outermost island of Kastelorizo. Takes just over half an hour.

      There were more Dash-8s in circulation with OA but they seem to be pruning them and putting A320s instead. I think there’s a plan to replace them with ATRs in the long run.

      • yorkieflyer says:

        Dash 8 200 is a fun trip to and from Lord Howe island, been twice and besides the splendid destination the flight is a treat. Only one attempt at landing due to the lack of local diversion airfield 600k from mainland and a less than 3000ft strip means everyone is weighed at check in

    • Patrick says:

      Speaking of Dash-8s, I fondly remember my trips to Greenland, where the Dash-8 is perfect for short hops between towns, and, provided the weather is clear, offers amazing views over the coast!
      The shortest hop I have done was 9 minutes I think.

    • His Holyness says:

      I can’t agree the DH8 is more bumpy than a Jet. With hundreds of flights on a Dash under my belt I would say Jet’s are more bumpy. Jets fly faster, so CAT is more rough when you hit it. Plus the Dash is a very sturdy plane, literally built like a tank.

      If there’s a storm, I’d much rather fly on a DH8 than a Jet. It’s also an immensely powerful aircraft and can fly for around 5 hours with a full tank.

  • Sentient Seaweed says:

    “The entire Flybe senior leadership team was on the flight” 😳. I wonder who did the risk assessment on that !

    The problem with the Dash aircraft is that the service ceiling is quite low, so one often finds oneself flying *through* the weather rather than over it. Also they are rather plodding aircraft, which means one gets to “enjoy” the lumps-and-bumps for longer.

    • Charlie says:

      I guess It’s a moot point – if the flight crashes and kills everyone on the first flight, that’s probably the end of the airline.

    • Mike says:

      I guess the Flybe senior leadership team are not exactly like the Royal family

      • Tony says:

        Even so I’d have thought this would breach the most basic of business continuity plans.

        Once got a bargain Flybe flight at the end of the ski season sou-Szg. Now that was a long haul in a prop plane. Think it was almost 3hrs, although only about a quarter full I recall.

        • Rob says:

          They would probably say that if the launch flight crashed in flames, the airline itself won’t be long for this world anyway …..

  • Chris L says:

    My main issue with the Dash 8s is the width rather than the legroom, as mentioned in the review. However, at least you’re never going to get a middle seat and the boarding takes less time due to fewer pax than an A320.

  • Chris says:

    We’re masks enforced on the flight?

  • Grant says:

    HI Rhys – approx how long did it take you to clear security and did you use the fast track queue? I have a flight on Monday morning at the same time as yours was.

    • Rob says:

      He went in the Fast Track queue in error and was not thrown out, so fairly quick. He told me there were hundreds of people (at 7am on a Wednesday) in the normal queue and they were having to fish people out whose flights were closing.

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    Although the Virgin Connect name change was announced it was postponed and ultimately never happened. So when the original Flybe went bust it was still trading as Flybe not Virgin Connect.

    • Alex Sm says:

      Yes, I still remember that menacing one-page website with Flybe logo which just offered to claim money for existing bookings through CC providers. I managed to rebook our flights to Guernsey on Aurigny only to find two weeks later that the whole world of travel is about to collapse…

  • Nick says:

    One slight correction… Flybe had exactly its fair share of ups and downs. It was a terribly managed airline that somehow managed against all odds to cling on as long as it did. I hope the new-new variant is successful though.

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

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