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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.

  • His Holyness says:

    Pity Flybe choose from the beginning such a crap overhead locker setup. There is no need for them to be this small. Other operators of the DH8 choose larger lockers that fit a standard wheelie.

    I suppose it was part of their scam setup at the time, to charge £50 at the gate.

    • Rhys says:

      Is that true? Any larger and they’d basically be on top of your head! Several people bumped their head on Wednesday as it was!

      • Stu N says:

        Yes, you can spec them so wheely cases go in end-on, I think this is on one side of the cabin only. There’s minimal impact on headroom above seats but the channel above the aisle is obviously narrower.

        • the_real_a says:

          I have no idea of cost on a Dash 8 – but I remember Rob covered a story that the cost of the larger bins to be retrofitted from Airbus for BA`s old A320 was cost prohibitive by an insane amount.

    • ADS says:

      I definitely managed to shove a soft wheely into the overhead locker in the old FlyBE planes (before they started charging extra to take them onboard)

      Presumably the overhead lockers are unchanged

  • AJA says:

    I think you mean “complimentary” rather than “complementary in-flight refreshments for all” unless you didn’t mean free refreshments?

    Complementary means goes well together with as in red wine complements an Italian meal well.

    That said good luck to Flybe, I hope they succeed this time. There is definitely a need for a regional airline and I think the dash 8-400 is the right aircraft. I wonder how long the airfares will stay at £35 each way.

    • Rhys says:

      Fair point…

      • Tony says:

        Bloke sitting at a bar alone. Orders a drink, barman disappears, then the bloke hears this voice “I do like your hair”. Looks around, no one to be seen. Shrugs, takes a sip of his drink and again the same voice “and those shoes – wonderful. Where did you get them?”. Looks round again, no one to be seen. Barman returns to find bloke looking very puzzled. Asks what’s up, bloke explains what’s happened, barman replies “oh that’ll be the peanuts, they’re complementary…”

        (I’ll get my coat…)

        • AJA says:

          Sorry to be a downer here but that should also be complimentary. The joke is otherwise funny 😁

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Well, not necessarily seafood linguine…

  • shilly says:

    Hope we are going to have a review from a Belfast hotel Rhys or did you fly straight back?

    • Rob says:

      Straight back, he is off on holiday now. Hilton Belfast is still on the ‘to do’ list though. Hopefully we get a fresh Belfast City lounge review.

      • Vasco says:

        Never stayed at the Hilton, but the AC Hotel is pretty good!

        • Nick says:

          The Hilton in Belfast is great, I’ve stayed there a few times and always loved it. Staff are wonderful. Even in covid they adapted and made the lounge and breakfast work as best as they could.

          BHD review in one paragraph…
          IMO the best Aspire anywhere, much nicer than average. Oddly Aspire allowed them to keep/make a few local touches and that really adds to the experience. Individual teapots and milk jugs for lovely afternoon tea (great scones too). I just wish they wouldn’t use disposable plates and cutlery, it’s an aberration in the current climate.

          • Cuchlainn says:

            Eh to the best of my personal experience as of 3 weeks ago, the BHD Aspire Lounge had closed and has morphed ( poorly ) into a Priority Pass accepting lounge.

          • Graham says:

            Totally agreed. We stayed last August and the staff were a delight. Gave us an upgrade despite us staying on a BA Holidays deal!

          • TeesTraveller says:

            +1 for the Hilton Belfast. Well, once I found the front door.

      • Tetly1967 says:

        there in a couple of weeks if you want a view

        • Rob says:

          Thanks, but we’re holding it in reserve for whenever we need a Belfast night.

          • Stephen says:

            How about a review of the Merchant Hotel when you do go to Belfast? It’s not in a loyalty programme to my knowledge but a nice use of a former bank HQ

  • Shad says:

    I cant complain too much about Flybe – I won a car (Ford Puma) from them when they rebranded from Jersey European to British European (i thought the phone call saying i had won was a wind up!)…

    I also remember flying between BHX and Stuttgart on both the Dash and the Jets that they had a the time. It was alway a bonus if you got a jet over the turboprop as you got home 30 minutes quicker…

  • NorthernLass says:

    I flew on Flybe with avios well before 2014. It was never a great option though, as the surcharges made up a big chunk of the ticket price.

    • Chris L says:

      Mostly true, but occasionally if cash prices were inflated due to something like a sporting event then Avios would be good value.

  • James Harper says:

    What I find puzzling is that FlyBe have almost matched the scheduled Aer Lingus times on this route and Aer Lingus are already established. No one is going to choose FlyBe for a drink and a biscuit if Aer Lingus is cheaper so the competition has to be on price only and Aer Lingus have to be in a better position for a price war should there be one.

    Then there’s the ATR or the Dash-8 to choose between, I would choose the ATR all other things being equal. I wish FlyBe well but competing in such a head on fashion with Aer Lingus when they didn’t need to seems crazy.

  • Josh says:

    When is the last flight?
    How long will it last?

  • Paul says:

    Good luck to Flybe version 2, I hope they do well as the U.K. needs an airline flying small aircraft to mainly domestic routes. However of the five destinations announced from Birmingham, four are currently served by EasyJet. Amsterdam also has KLM and Jet2, and Belfast also has Aer Lingus. I do hope that there are enough punters to spread around.

    • GM says:

      That’s what I don’t get too. Although old Flybe did Amsterdam too. Meanwhile no flights to Berlin, for example. Used old Flybe for Stuttgart, Milan, Hamburg, Berlin…

      • Rob says:

        They also get stuffed for £13 APD each way on domestic flights. A £70 round trip to Belfast makes them less revenue after taxes than a £70 round trip to Amsterdam.

        Loganair and Eastern also seem happier sticking to domestic and ‘oil and gas’ routes, creating a bit of a window.

        It’s tricky though. You need routes that have enough passengers for a 78 seater but not enough for a 150 seater, because easyJet will then pounce.

        • Paul says:

          I’ve booked myself a trip to Belfast in July, the fare was just over £70 return which for a Friday to Sunday visit looks very good. Notice when booking that Flybe don’t have an app, and my confirmation email suggested i print my ticket off, so I’m not expecting boarding cards to be in the wallet section of my phone where every other airline I’ve used in the last five years tends to put them.

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