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Analysis: Flybe collapse spells disaster for regional Britain

written by Sandy Milne | March 6, 2020

The failure of Exeter-based airline Flybe yesterday has left large swathes of regional Britain effectively cut off from the rest of the country.

Business and political leaders are warning that regional dependence on the carrier – which has near-total market share over major cities such as Belfast and Southampton – will have dire consequences for the economy.

Though paling in comparison to competitors Ryanair and Easyjet in terms of passenger numbers, experts say that the loss of the airline is “disastrous” for UK regions.

Flybe’s business model prioritised point-to-point convenience for business and leisure travellers in the UK, where rail transport can be expensive or non-existent.

The model also capitalised on direct routes between regional hubs and London, where the majority of corporate headquarters are clustered.

This niche saw the airline operate low-volume routes with smaller aircraft, which proved unsustainable as concerns over COVID-19 caused a drop in demand for domestic travel.


According to air transport consultant John Strickland, Flybe is “small in the scale of the UK market as a whole, but if you’re flying out of Exeter, Newquay or specifically Southampton, it really is one of the only airline choices … so a number of regional groups will risk not being served”.

Northern Ireland is one of the areas likely to be hard-hit; in the lead-up to the collapse, Flybe operated 14 routes from Belfast City Airport. This amounted to 80 per cent of scheduled flights.

Though other short-haul carriers (including Scotland’s Loganair) have expressed interest in moving to cover the routes lost, for now the airport has been reduced to operating four routes.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she deeply regrets the closure of Flybe.

“Maintaining air connectivity is absolutely vital to Northern Ireland – to enable access to the economic market in Great Britain and for tourists arriving to our airports from Great Britain and beyond,” she said.

Other airports reliant on Flybe for large proportions of flights include Southampton (90 per cent), Exeter (80 per cent), Isle of Man (49 per cent), Cardiff (42 per cent) and Aberdeen (36 per cent).

Speaking on Flybe’s significance to Exeter Airport, chairman of the South West Business Council Tim Jones predicted catastrophic losses if services were not replaced quickly.

“A huge pack of cards has just fallen over,” he said.

Jones estimates losses of up to £600 million a year to the regional economy.

“Aside from 2,400 workers directly employed by the company, countless jobs provided at these airports are now in question,” he said.

However, Loganair announced on Thursday that it has opened a special recruitment line for former Flybe employees, as it acquired 16 of the bankrupt company’s routes across the UK.

Analysts have predicted that many of the point-to-point services offered by the company would not interest the likes of Ryanair or EasyJet.

A medical service operated by Flybe between the Isle of Man and Liverpool in partnership with the NHS, for example, looks to be in question.

The final flight to land was BE1047 from Manchester to Aberdeen.

Analysis: Flybe collapse spells disaster for regional Britain Comment

  • Brian Richard Allen



    TRANSLATION: Flybe mismanagement opens instant opportunities in Britain’s regional markets!

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