The Flybe name is to return to London Heathrow.
Two years after the former Flybe collapsed into administration, the Flybe name will return to Heathrow as a new airline with routes to Amsterdam, Belfast and Leeds-Bradford.
The first flights will launch from late April 2022.
All flights operate with De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprop aircraft.
Flybe’s Long & Chequered History
The original Flybe, founded in 1979, once had an ambition to a major pan-European regional airline.
Ten years or so ago it floated on the stock exchange, with a closing share price on its first day of trading of 341¼p. This valued the airline at £249m.
In 2019, Flybe was acquired by the Connect Airways consortium, comprising Cyrus Capital, Stobart Air and Virgin Atlantic, for £2.8m.
The consortium planned to invest £100m in Flybe and rebrand the airline as “Virgin Connect” – though nobody ever saw so much as CGI Virgin Connect livery.
Faced with rapidly deteriorating trading and shareholders unwilling to invest more money, Flybe collapsed into administration in March 2020.
Shortly before, former IAG CEO Willie Walsh delivered a withering verdict on the airline: “That’s a business model that doesn’t work with shareholders that have suddenly cottoned on that they’ve bought a dog.”
Cyrus Capital bought certain assets of Flybe, including the Heathrow bmi remedy slots it acquired from BA, out of administration in April 2021.
Flybe’s New Heathrow Routes
Flybe will launch new routes from London Heathrow to Amsterdam, Belfast City and Leeds-Bradford.
Flights to Belfast City and Leeds-Bradford will launch on Thursday 28 April 2022 and will operate up to 2 and 3 times daily respectively.
Flights to Amsterdam will launch on Sunday 29 May 2022 and will operate up to twice daily.
All flights will operate from Terminal 2. Flights are on sale now at Flybe.com
Outside of Heathrow, Flybe will operate routes from a number of UK regional airports including Birmingham, East Midlands and Southampton. Full details are at Flybe.
Flybe’s Fare Structure
Flybe will offer three choices of fare:
Flybe Lite: This includes a small cabin bag (45 x 36 x 20cm & up to 7kg in weight) which must fit underneath the seat in front.
Flybe Smart: This also includes a checked bag up to 15kg in weight and free seat selection from Row 5 upwards.
Flybe Plus: This includes priority boarding, a checked bag up to 23kg in weight, extra leg room seats, and free flight changes subject to availability.
Will Flybe Succeed?
The “new” Flybe will be a substantially smaller, and simpler, airline than its predecessor.
It won’t be encumbered by the over-ambitious fleet planning decisions of the past. On UK domestic routes it will also benefit from the end of the charging of Air Passenger Duty on both legs of the journey.
That said, there is no doubt that the business travel market remains depressed. The airline will also have to contend with rising fuel prices.
In terms of specific routes at Heathrow, all of Amsterdam, Belfast and Leeds-Bradford were previously operated by bmi British Midland. It suspended Amsterdam and Leeds-Bradford. Belfast was maintained, but at a time when it didn’t face any competition from British Airways on the route. BA also tried Leeds-Bradford after it bought bmi, but this was suspended after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It doesn’t need to be pointed out that Flybe will face strong competition from BA and KLM on Amsterdam, as well as easyJet outside of Heathrow.
There is also the question of brand recognition. The Flybe name has not been used for two years. Before it collapsed into administration, it did not have the best reputation.
As was the case with the old Flybe, passengers may also prefer to fly on an Airbus jet aircraft.
Flybe may benefit from codesharing with long haul airlines at Heathrow but history has shown that providing feeder traffic to other airlines is, both financially and operationally, a thankless task.
The industry will be watching with interest.