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ExCeL London - 24-25 February 2021
With the recent news of the collapse of Flybe, many across the U.K. are now questioning what the carrier's demise means for regional connectivity.
According to data from Cirium, as of January 2020, 88.8 percent of Flybe's domestic routes were not served by any other carrier, along with 82.6 percent of its 31 international routes. The airline's monopoly routes alone accounted for 10,543 flights per month, meaning a total of 791,550 available seats solely operated by Flybe have been lost with its collapse.
At many smaller regional airports, Flybe operated the vast majority of flights. In Belfast City, for example, the carrier's collapse left just a few routes in service, while on the Isle of Man the airline was a lifeline offering medical flights for residents to get treatment in England. It also operated 95 percent of services at Southampton.
Abby Penston, CEO of business travel consortium Focus Travel Partnership, commented: "The airline's collapse will leave a major gap in the U.K.'s domestic flight route network, as it provided vital connections to long-haul destinations."
Some airports remain optimistic despite the loss of Flybe's services, with Welsh economy minister Ken Skates saying the collapse would not threaten Cardiff airport because the airline only accounted for around 5.6 percent of total revenues.
The carrier's demise quickly garnered responses from other airlines and even train companies, with LNER offering to carry Flybe staff and customers for free with a valid ID or booking reference to get them home. Easyjet is also offering a special "rescue" fare of £65 including hold luggage until the end of May.
Scottish airline Loganair said it is "safeguarding" 16 U.K. regional routes formerly flown by Flybe from its existing bases at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Newcastle. It will launch the additional flights over the next three months, with the majority due to commence next week.
Chief executive Jonathan Hinkles commented: "The collapse of a long-standing airline like Flybe marks a desperately sad day, especially for the airline's dedicated team of employees and for customers facing disruption to their journeys. By stepping in so quickly with a comprehensive plan, Loganair is aiming to maintain essential air connectivity within the U.K. regions to keep customers flying. I am confident that the plans being announced today are robust and sustainable. …"
Eastern Airways, a long-time partner of Flybe, announced Thursday that it will operate independently and start selling tickets through its own website – fares were historically sold by Flybe regardless of which carrier operated the flight. It has also secured three of Flybe's former routes – Aberdeen-Birmingham, Southampton-Manchester and Southampton-Newcastle – all commencing this week.
Tony Burgess, MD of Eastern Airways, said: "We do extend sympathy to all Flybe staff and their families following the sad news that Flybe has ceased trading.
"As a former franchise partner of Flybe, this will not impact on any flights and routes operated by Eastern Airways… [which] remains fully committed to providing regional connectivity with business links to capital cities and industrial centers."
Meanwhile, Guernsey-based Aurigny will take over two of Flybe's routes to Exeter and Birmingham, with chief executive Mark Darby saying the airline believes "maintaining Guernsey's connectivity is key".
And fellow Channel Islands carrier Blue Islands said it will operate "uninterrupted" flights from Jersey and Guernsey to Bristol, Southampton, London City, East Midlands and Newquay.
Focus's Penston said: "Whilst the demise will impact our partners located in the Channel Islands, Scotland, Northern Ireland and U.K. regions, we are heartened to see that other airlines are already beginning to step in to fill routes."
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