Analysis: How Flybe’s Collapse Will Affect UK Connectivity
Flybe joined administration and ceased trading on January 28, less than a year after returning to the skies after a previous collapse.
Analysis of flight plan data provided by OAG shows that nearly 300 flights were scheduled to be operated by the British regional airline on 17 routes this week. The airline served 10 airports in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Amsterdam and Geneva international airports.
In total, around 22,776 departure sites were scheduled for operations across the network for the week commencing January 30. Around 76% of the airline’s capacity was on UK domestic routes.
Overall, Flybe, based in Birmingham, England, would have accounted for about 4.1% of the total available domestic capacity in the UK this week, making it the fifth largest operator behind easyJet, British Airways, Loganair and Aer Lingus.
Looking at Flybe’s flight schedule, almost 5,500 departure seats were earmarked for operations from Belfast City (BHD), making it the largest airport in the airline’s network. The airline accounted for around 19% of the airport’s total capacity, with 70 weekly departures.
However, the airport is less vulnerable than when Flybe’s previous incarnation collapsed in March 2020. At that time, Flybe accounted for around 67% of Belfast City’s total capacity and 79% of its frequencies.
Commenting on the recent government, Belfast City CEO Matthew Hall said it was “disappointing and unexpected news”. But he added that of the 10 destinations Flybe flies to from Northern Ireland Airport, eight are available with other airlines.
Birmingham (BHX) was the second busiest airport in the airline’s schedule with 3,666 departure seats scheduled for this week, followed by London Heathrow (LHR) with 3,354. Amsterdam (AMS) was the fourth largest with 2,574 scheduled seats and Edinburgh (EDI) was fifth with 1,482.
Of the 17 routes Flybe served prior to the collapse, Birmingham-Belfast City and Birmingham-London Heathrow were the largest with 2,184 weekly seats each. Analysis of the airline’s network shows that it faced direct competition on 12 of the services it offered.
The five routes on which Flybe was the sole operator included East Midland (EMA)-Amsterdam; Belfast City-East Midlands; Belfast City-Newcastle (NCL); Cornwall Newquay (NQY)-London Heathrow; and Cornwall Newquay-Manchester (MAN).
Scottish regional airline Loganair last served the Cornwall Newquay-Manchester sector in October 2022 but has already confirmed plans to return to daily service from 10 February, while easyJet will also fly the route from the start of the 2023 summer season.
In addition, easyJet serves the market between Belfast and Newcastle from Belfast International (BFS) and Eastern Airways operates flights to London Gatwick (LGW) from Cornwall Newquay. Ryanair will also be serving NQY-London Stansted (STN) this summer.
Earlier this month, Flybe unveiled a summer schedule and said it would be offering two new routes from its Birmingham base. It should be Aberdeen (ABZ) and Bergerac (EGC) in France. The airline also planned to bring back seasonal flights to French destinations Avignon (AVN) and Brest (BES).
Flybe’s planned flight plan for summer 2023 included around 1.2 million departure locations and more than 14,700 flights. A total of 23 routes with more than 300,000 seats are to be operated from Belfast City.
The airline was led by CEO Dave Pfluger, former CEO of Alaska-based regional airline Ravn Air. It operated a fleet of eight De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 aircraft.
David Pike of insolvency firm Interpath Advisory, one of Flybe Limited’s joint administrators alongside Mike Pink, said the collapse was a “real setback to the UK’s regional connectivity at a time when infrastructure and armaments are high on the agenda “.
He added: “Unfortunately, the company has endured a number of shocks since its restart, not least the delayed delivery of 17 aircraft it needed for its flight schedule, which has severely impacted both the airline’s capacity and ability to remain competitive. “
277 of Flybe’s 321 staff are understood to have been made redundant and companies including easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air are expected to hire available staff. Wizz Air has already announced plans for online and in-person recruitment events for former Flybe flight attendants and pilots.
The old Flybe failed in March 2020 and its brand and assets were sold to Thyme Opco, a company linked to hedge fund Cyrus Capital. New York-based Cyrus Capital was previously part of a consortium that owned the airline alongside Virgin Atlantic and the now-defunct Stobart Air.
The recent collapse will have a less severe impact on connectivity in the UK than the failure of the previous incarnation in early 2020. Flybe was the UK’s largest domestic operator in 2019, accounting for 38.2% of departures. This put the airline ahead of easyJet with 19.8% and British Airways with 16.9%.
In addition, Flybe was the second largest provider of domestic capacity. In 2019, there were 28.79 million domestic departure seats in the UK, of which the airline served 8.3 million, accounting for 28.9%.