Flybe (now “Virgin Connect”) could drop unprofitable flight routes that are better done by road or rail
The new boss of Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, says it could axe some routes, if they are being out-competed by rail. Flybe has been renamed “Virgin Connect” after being taken over by the Connect Airways consortium of operators featuring Virgin Atlantic. “Virgin Connect” may stop flying between airports where the journey can be made easily by train or car – and the airline needs to cut costs. Its CEO said “maybe in the future we’ll get behind that as well.” The routes in the UK that should not be served by air routes, but by rail, include Manchester-Glasgow, Birmingham-Edinburgh, Exeter-Manchester and Exeter-London City. The flight-shaming movement, which has grown in recent months, encourages people to stop travelling by air, and this will hit these short haul trips, making them unprofitable for airlines like “Virgin Connect”. So this is face-saving. It is often faster and more convenient to travel direct to a city centre, by train, rather than to an airport outside the city. Dutch airline KLM will reduce the number of flights it operates between Amsterdam and Brussels from 5 to 4 each day, from March 2020 by offering customers a seat on a high-speed train.
Airline could drop flight routes over emissions concerns
by Press Association
Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline could axe some routes over environmental concerns, the boss of its new owner has revealed.
Flybe was renamed Virgin Connect earlier this week after being taken over by the Connect Airways consortium of operators featuring Virgin Atlantic.
Connect Airways chief executive Mark Anderson said the airline could stop flying between airports where the journey can be made easily by train or car.
“Maybe there are some routes in the future … that we will potentially not fly.”
In an interview with the PA news agency at the Airlines 2050 aviation summit in Westminster, he said: “We need to be responsible.
“Maybe there are some routes in the future, as I look at the future of Virgin Connect and how we’re connecting people to their world, that we will potentially not fly.
“We will potentially say ‘Actually this makes more sense by train or this makes more sense by road’, and maybe in the future we’ll get behind that as well.”
Flybe currently operates a number of domestic routes in Britain between cities which are connected by direct trains, such as Manchester-Glasgow, Birmingham-Edinburgh, Exeter-Manchester and Exeter-London City.
The flight-shaming movement, which has grown in recent months, encourages people to stop travelling by air.
Dutch airline KLM will reduce the number of daily flights it operates between Amsterdam and Brussels from five to four from March 2020 by offering customers a seat on a high-speed train.
Mr Anderson insisted that regional carriers “shouldn’t be a prime target” for environmentalists, stating that the twin propeller planes used by Virgin Connect emit around half the carbon emissions of jet aircraft.
There is “definitely a role for aviation” in how people travel, he said.
“A lot of the routes that we fly, the reason that people travel with us is that it’s a lot longer, it’s a lot more difficult by road or rail.”
He added that airlines have made “great progress” in improving their sustainability in recent years, but acknowledged that the industry “has more work to do in improving its carbon footprint”.
Flybe set for rebrand as Virgin Atlantic-led takeover approved
5 Jul 2019
by Jenni Reid (Business Traveller)
The European Commission has approved the acquisition of British regional carrier Flybe by Connect Airways, a consortium made up of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital.
Flybe completed the sale of its assets to Connect Airways in February. Services have continued as normal after the group offered the airline a £20 million bridge loan amid its financial difficulties.
It means the Flybe brand now looks set to disappear.
In a statement today, Connect Airways said: “Work is underway to develop an exciting new brand and customer proposition, which will be announced in due course.”
It added that it would be “an enhanced customer experience in line with the Virgin brand.”
It also said the airline would offer “more choice for customers through improved connectivity between UK regional airports and Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network, particularly at London Heathrow and Manchester Airports.”
In its decision, the European Commission said the takeover would lead to “quasi-monopolies on two direct European routes, namely Birmingham-Amsterdam and Birmingham-Paris.”
It ruled the airline must therefore release five daily slot pairs at Amsterdam Schiphol and three daily slot pairs at Paris Charles de Gaulle. These must be released to competing airlines that want to fly the routes.
Connect Airways was formed in January in order to make the Flybe bid. Member Stobart Group owns and operates London Southend Airport and fellow regional carrier Stobart Air.
Former Flybe CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener had announced she would step down following the takeover.
The airline’s new CEO is Mark Anderson, formerly the managing director of Virgin Holidays.
Anderson commented: “On behalf of Connect Airways, I couldn’t be more excited by the opportunity we have to build a strong platform in the UK and to grow our franchise flying operation in Ireland.
“Our whole team is focused on redefining the experience for our customers, as we rediscover the excitement and passion of being Europe’s largest regional airline.”
Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: “Mark and his team at Connect Airways have an amazing opportunity ahead of them.
“At Virgin Atlantic we recognise the value of great partnerships, and the network and connectivity benefits they offer customers.
“I’m excited to build on the successful partnership Virgin Atlantic has enjoyed with Flybe – and how we can enhance the experience for our mutual customers, once Connect Airways joins the Virgin family and operates under its new brand.”
See earlier, on how Flybe has been struggling and losing money:
Flybe cancels dozens of flights because of ‘operational issues’
Airline also announces plans to close two bases in Cardiff and Doncaster, putting jobs at risk
By Angela Monaghan (The Guardian)
3rd April 2019
…(parts omitted below …)
Flybe has cancelled dozens of flights, blaming “operational issues” including a shortage of pilots, as it told workers it planned to close bases at Cardiff and Doncaster, putting jobs at risk.
Birmingham, Newcastle, Southampton, Belfast City, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were among the airports where a total of 32 flights were cancelled on Wednesday morning, affecting more than 1,000 passengers. Most of the affected flights were to UK destinations.
The airline said: “We have now put in place a number of contingency plans to minimise future disruptions and to manage any repeat of the level of cancellations made today. No cancellations are expected tomorrow.”
Flybe is consulting with employees over plans to close its airbases at Cardiff and Doncaster from 1 October, and to scale back its operations in Exeter and Norwich.
The airline said the changes were part of plans to reduce its aircraft fleet, which means it will stop flying the 118-seat Embraer E195, returning the planes to its lessors. Flybe will continue to fly the 78-seat Bombardier Q400.
Despite closing the bases at Cardiff and Doncaster, it will continue to offer flights to and from both locations on the Q400, with aircraft and crew flying from other bases.
Unite, the UK’s largest union, which represents more than 450 Flybe workers, said 52 cabin crew and 38 pilots were at risk of redundancy at the two sites earmarked for closure. Peter Coulson, the union’s regional officer, said it was seeking to limit the number of job losses and secure assurances about the airline’s long-term future.
“Our members are justifiably concerned about their jobs and future employment, as a result of the company cancelling a number of flights for ‘operational reasons’ and having launched a redundancy programme,” he said.
“It is essential that Flybe is fully transparent with its workforce about the exact situation facing the company. The current uncertainty is incredibly unsettling and is in danger of severely damaging morale at the company.”
The airline put itself up for sale in November, a month after a profit warning prompted plans to cut costs and reduce flight numbers. It was subsequently bought by Connect Airways, a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic, in a deal valuing Flybe at only £2.2m.
The latest disruption comes at a difficult time for low-cost airlines. Last week, Iceland’s Wow Air stopped flying after failing to secure emergency funding. The Danish airline Primera Air ceased operating in October, a year after the collapse of Monarch Airlines led to the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation.