What’s Next For Flybe?

What’s next for Flybe pending its acquisition by the Connect Airways consortium?

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

24 hours have passed since the Connect Airways joint-venture between Cyrus Capital, Stobart Air and Virgin Atlantic has confirmed it is bidding to buy Flybe.

For Flybe’s shareholders, this is an absolute stinker of a deal, valuing their shares at just 1p. They duly responded by crashing the share price from 16.4p to 3.75p on Friday. For Flybe’s long-suffering employees, there is at least some certainty as to the future. The alternative would have been a fairly disorderly and undignified winding down of the airline.

In terms of what happens next, there are still a number of unknowns. However, the Ministry for Speculation and Guesswork has been consulted with the following thoughts:

1. The announcement was interesting for what it didn’t mention.

The announcement made much of the scope to grow short-haul connectivity to Virgin Atlantic and Delta’s long-haul flights and London Heathrow and Manchester.

Apart from Southend airport, which is owned by Stobart Group and Stobart Air operates a Flybe franchise, much less was said about other UK airports.

One airport that won’t feature in the consortium’s plans is Gatwick. Flybe announced on Friday that it has sold its last remaining slots to Vueling for £4.5m.

Nothing was also said about the impact on other Flybe franchise operators such as Blue Islands which flies from London City to Jersey, or Eastern Airways.

There are also other airports which, apart from routes to Virgin hubs and those of Virgin’s forthcoming transatlantic partner Air France-KLM, offer little to the consortium. A cursory scan of the departures board for many airports such as Exeter and Southampton shows that these airports would not be viable without Flybe’s operation. Any significant cuts to Flybe’s schedules at these airports will be politically sensitive.

2. This is high risk for the Virgin brand.

Although the new airline will be operated independently from Virgin Atlantic by a consortium, which is a challenge in itself, in the eyes of the public it will be Virgin Atlantic.

As much as Virgin will try to add a bit of fizz, regional short-haul flying is a painfully unglamorous business. As is the thankless task of feeding passengers to long-haul flights where there is a high risk of missed connections and mislaid baggage.

Virgin Atlantic will be the target of opprobrium for any service failings.

3. There are mixed results for BA and International Airlines Group.

Ultimately, if International Airlines Group wanted to buy Flybe it could have submitted a bid.

It is highly likely that IAG has its sights on bigger “transformational” deals. However, there are some downsides for BA and other IAG airlines.

There is now not a chance of the 12 Heathrow bmi remedy slots that BA has had to make available to Flybe ever returning to BA. The new airline will soon be able to make full use of these for short-haul services in perpetuity. It will also n doubt continue Flybe’s ambition to add more routes in the event of a third runway at Heathrow.

BA made a strategic decision over ten years ago to withdraw from regional short-haul flying. It has also shown no interest in franchising the brand in the UK, having withdrawn from all UK franchise agreements some years ago.

Indeed, much of Flybe today comprises the former “BA Connect” regional operation which BA effectively paid Flybe to take off its hands. BA also sold its 15% stake in the airline. When BA sold BA Connect, it turned its attention to BA CityFlyer at London City, which performs extremely well for the airline. Should Flybe downsize at London City, this will give more scope for BA CityFlyer to grow.

Flybe currently uses Avios as its frequent flyer currency. It is inevitable that Flybe will withdraw from the Avios scheme. This will reduce Avios coverage in UK regional markets. Passengers will be able to earn Virgin Flying Club miles. Virgin Atlantic is due to relaunch its frequent flyer programme this year. This, combined with earning and redemption opportunities on Air France-KLM, will make Virgin’s frequent flyer programme a much more competitive rival to the BA Executive Club.

Aer Lingus does rely on Flybe to operate codeshare routes from some UK regional airports such as Exeter and Southampton to Dublin, and these may well cease.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh will no doubt offer some “forthright” views on the merits of the deal when IAG announces its annual results next month.

Virgin Atlantic Consortium Bids To Buy Flybe

A consortium including Virgin Atlantic is bidding to buy Flybe. The new airline will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand.

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

A consortium including Virgin Atlantic has made an offer to buy the airline Flybe.

Flybe announced last year that it had put itself up for sale and Virgin Atlantic had made known its interest in the airline.

The consortium also includes Stobart Aviation, which operates flights under the Flybe franchise, and Cyrus Capital Partners. Stobart Group had launched an unsuccessful takeover bid for Flybe last year.

Cyrus Capital will be the single largest shareholder, owning 40% of the consortium. Stobart Aviation and Virgin Atlantic will each own 30% of the consortium.

The transaction is subject to approval by Flybe’s shareholders. In theory, another bid could be forthcoming. However, this is unlikely. Any bid by International Airlines Group would require competition remedies at London Heathrow and BA seems happy with the performance of BA CityFlyer at London City.

This bid offers little to Flybe’s shareholders. On its first day on the stock exchange in December 2010, Flybe’s share price closed at 341¼p, valuing the airline at £249m. Yesterday, Flybe shares closed at 16.4p, valuing the airline at £36m. This offer is for substantially less, at 1p a share, valuing the airline at £2.2m. However, it does provide for a relatively dignified and orderly exit.

As part of the transaction the consortium will also acquire Stobart Air. The combined Flybe and Stobart Air operation will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand. However, it will remain an independent airline from Virgin Atlantic. Operating under the Virgin brand is not without risk if there are issues with reliability and punctuality.

The consortium has also agreed to provide a £20m bridge loan to support Flybe’s operations pending the acquisition and to invest £80m of further funding after the acquisition.

Stobart Air does provide wet leased aircraft to other airlines, including rivals of Virgin Atlantic, and this will continue to operate.

Full details of the offer can be found at Stobart Group.

Whilst the offer document makes much of the ability to feed Virgin Atlantic at London Heathrow and Manchester, and grow short-haul flights at London Southend, it says much less about operations at other UK regional airports which are heavily dependent on Flybe for traffic. Flybe is by some margin the single largest airline at many UK regional airports, including Exeter and Southampton.
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Why Does Virgin Atlantic Want To Buy Flybe?

Virgin Atlantic has confirmed it’s looking at a potential bid for Flybe.

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe and Virgin Atlantic
Flybe and Virgin Atlantic

Following Sky News’ exclusive report on Thursday evening, Virgin Atlantic has confirmed it is in discussions about a possible bid to buy Flybe.

Flybe announced a little over a week ago that it had put itself up for sale and has appointed advisors to manage the process.

At the outset there are some caveats.

When a business announces it is up for sale, it is to be expected that many parties will come forward to have a good look at the books. Few will ultimately submit a bid.

Ordinarily, their identities are supposed to be confidential. When prospective purchasers are leaked to the media, it is usually deliberate and for a reason. More names may appear in the press this weekend.

Given Virgin’s existing codeshare relationship and the potential impact of a change in ownership it is to be expected that Virgin will take an active interest in the process.

With Virgin’s track record you could be forgiven this was simply a means of generating press coverage. When Lufthansa sold bmi seven years ago Virgin made a lot of noise about making a bid. It was not seen by Lufthansa as anywhere near as credible as the bid by International Airlines Group. So much so that the only alternative was liquidating the airline.

However, the fact that Virgin has appointed Rothschild to advise suggests it is serious in its intent.

Why would an exclusively long-haul airline want to buy a regional airline that barely touches the airports it serves?

Virgin Atlantic and Flybe

Virgin Atlantic does have an existing codeshare relationship with Flybe.

It relies on Flybe to provide short-haul feed, principally at Heathrow and Manchester. Flybe’s routes from Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh use remedy slots released by BA as a condition of its merger with bmi. Virgin tried unsuccessfully to use these slots itself, wet leasing aircraft from Aer Lingus under the brand “Little Red”. Should Flybe withdraw from Heathrow for any reason, these would revert back to BA.

There is another factor: Air France-KLM. It is due to take a stake in Virgin next year. Air France-KLM and Virgin will combine their respective transatlantic joint-ventures with Delta into one to compete more effectively with American Airlines and BA. Air France relies on Flybe to provide feed to Paris Charles de Gaulle from some UK regional airports. Flybe’s UK regional network could be optimised to feed all four airlines.

That said, there are a lot of things that don’t make sense.

Virgin is loss-making and has much else to do next year. Long-haul and short-haul regional operations are radically different. Flybe has substantial operations at airports of little strategic interest, Cardiff, Exeter, London City, Norwich, Southampton. A lot of politically unpopular decisions would have to be made. If Virgin wants to acquire more short-haul feed at Heathrow and Manchester – and this is the dilemma facing any potential purchaser – there are other ways to go about it than buying Flybe.

Expect this to run and run over the next few months.

Flybe launches London Heathrow – Newquay

Flybe will transfer its flights to Newquay from Gatwick to Heathrow from Sunday 31 March 2019.

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

Heathrow Airport has snatched another route from Gatwick as Flybe is to transfer its service to Newquay from Sunday 31 March 2019.

Currently, Flybe flies from Gatwick to Newquay up to three times daily, typically with an Embraer E195 aircraft.

From Sunday 31 March 2019, this will operate from London Heathrow up to four times daily with a smaller Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop aircraft.

This was Flybe’s last remaining route at Gatwick which means the airline will leave the airport. The London – Newquay route is a Public Service Obligation route and is supported by funding from Government and Cornwall Council.

Flights will be on sale at Flybe before the end of November 2018.

Codeshares

It’s worth noting that the existing Gatwick – Newquay is codeshared with a number of airlines including BA, Emirates and Virgin.

It’s a safe assumption that to support four flights a day and connectivity for the South West region there will be a substantial number of codeshares with airlines at Heathrow.

If you have an existing booking for travel after Sunday 31 March 2019 to connect to/from a long-haul flight at Gatwick it is strongly advised to change your connection to Heathrow if possible. Otherwise, you will probably have to avoid have to cross London at your own expense. This is best avoided at almost all cost.
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Flybe launches London City – Newcastle

Flybe is to launch a new direct route from London City to Newcastle from Monday 7 January 2019, operated by franchise partner Eastern Airways.

London Air Travel » Flybe

The Angel Of The North
The Angel Of The North (Image Credit: NewcastleGateshead Tourism)

Flybe is to launch a new direct route from London City airport to Newcastle from Monday 7 January 2019.

Flights operate twice daily on weekdays and once a day on Sundays. This will be the only direct air link between London and Newcastle after BA’s service from Heathrow.

The service will be operated by Eastern Airways under Flybe’s livery. Eastern Airways also operates London City – Aberdeen on behalf of Flybe which, from Monday 7 January 2019, will operate via Newcastle.

The flight time is 65 minute from London and 70 minutes from Newcastle. This compares to a journey time of around 2 hours and 50 minutes on the train.

Flights are on sale now at Flybe.

At the moment flights up to Friday 29 March 2019 are only on sale. However, flights beyond Sunday 31 March 2019 should be on sale in the coming weeks.
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Flybe launches new routes from Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Aircraft (Image Credit: Heathrow Airport)

Flybe today, Sunday 26 March 2017, launches new direct flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

The first Flybe flight to depart London will be BE2122 to Aberdeen at 09:45.

Flybe will fly to Aberdeen & Edinburgh up to 3 & 4 times daily on weekdays. Flights will operate with reduced frequencies on Saturdays and Sundays. Flights will operate from London Heathrow Terminal 2.  

At launch, Flybe will codeshare with Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Flybe also has interline agreements in place with United Airlines, Delta, Qantas, and TAP.

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Flybe to launch London Heathrow – Aberdeen & Edinburgh

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe has today announced it is to launch direct flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh from 26 March 2017.

The slots to operate these flights will be sourced from British Airways.  As a condition of the purchase by its parent company, International Airlines Group, of bmi British Midland from Lufthansa in 2012, IAG is required to make slots available to eligible airlines for certain designated city pairs including London to Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The process is overseen by independent trustee.

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Flybe launches temporary London City – Cardiff service

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

The Severn Tunnel, which the Great Western Railway operates through between London Paddington and South Wales, is to close for six weeks from Monday 12 September 2016 and Friday 21 October 2016.

As a consequence of the closure trains will be diverted and journey times from London Paddington to South Wales will increase by up to 40 minutes.

In response, Flybe has launched a temporary service between London City airport and Cardiff airport from 12 September 2016 to 21 October 2016.

Flights will operate up to four times daily on weekdays and twice daily on Saturdays and Sundays. Flights will be operated by VLM Airlines on behalf of Flybe.

Flights are on sale now and a full timetable is available from Flybe.

This is not the first scheduled passenger service between London City and Cardiff. Air Wales operated a short-lived service between London City, Cardiff and Swansea airports in 2006.

Further details on the Severn Tunnel closure are available from GWR and Network Rail.

Flybe to suspend London City – Dublin from 31 May 2015

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

Flybe is to suspend its London City – Dublin route from 31 May 2015, a little over six months after Flybe opened a base at the airport.

Passengers have been offered either a refund or an alternative flight on Flybe. The London City – Dublin route is also served by CityJet and British Airways. The amount of capacity on the route is a likely factor behind Flybe’s decision.

Flybe launches new routes from London City

London Air Travel » Flybe

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

Flybe has this morning, 23 April 2014, announced it will set up a base at London City airport, launching new routes to Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter and Inverness from Monday 27 October 2014.

Continue reading “Flybe launches new routes from London City”