Airline Flybe collapses claiming coronavirus 'made a difficult situation worse'

5 March 2020, 10:31

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Flybe Europe's largest regional airline has gone into administration with the company claiming a drop in demand caused by coronavirus "made a difficult situation worse".

The airline said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak reducing the demand for air travel had an impact on its collapse.

The carrier's website advises customers to "not travel to the airport" unless they have arranged an alternative flight.

Exeter based Flybe and administrators announced in the early hours of Thursday it had ceased trading with immediate effect.

A Government spokesman said it has asked coach and train operators to accept Flybe tickets and airlines to offer reduced fares "to ensure passengers can make their journeys as smoothly as possible".

Free travel for Flybe passengers and staff is being offered by all First Rail train operators, which consist of Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Avanti West Coast.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents Britain's train companies, was unable to immediately confirm if free travel for Flybe passengers would be offered by all operators.

The regional airline has collapsed
The regional airline has collapsed. Picture: PA

Crisis talks were held throughout the day on Wednesday to try to secure a rescue package, but no deal was agreed. Administrators have been appointed.

Read more: Flybe collapse: Which airports did the airline fly from?

Read more: Booked a flight with Flybe and don't know what happens next? Here's what to do

All Flybe flights and those operated by sister airline Stobart Air have been cancelled, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. Flybe was bought by a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital in February 2019, after running into earlier financial problems.

In a statement, chief executive Mark Anderson said the company had made "every possible attempt" to avoid collapse but had been "unable to overcome significant funding challenges".

"The UK has lost one of its greatest regional assets," Mr Anderson said.

"Flybe has been a key part of the UK aviation industry for four decades, connecting regional communities, people and businesses across the entire nation.

"I thank all our partners and the communities we have been privileged to serve. Above all I would like to thank the Flybe team for their incredible commitment and dedication."

The company said all Flybe flights were immediately grounded and advised all passengers not to travel to airports unless alternative flight arrangements had been made.

Unions and politicians have reacted angrily over the collapse of Flybe - which will cost at least 1,4000 jobs - just weeks after the company narrowly avoided going under.

Read more: Flybe collapse: Staff find out of jobs loss from the news

Andy McDonald, Shadow Transport Secretary, said the loss of Flybe would cause "real anxiety" throughout the country.

He said: "The Civil Aviation Authority is sadly very well practised, following the collapse of Monarch and Thomas Cook, at responding to airline failure and looking after passengers. No doubt they will do that once more.

"Yet again more airline workers face an anxious future and the Government has to respond and provide them with all necessary support."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted it was "very sad" Flybe had gone out of business after serving passengers for four decades.

He said the Government was "urgently working" with the airline industry to "identify how key routes can be re-established by other airlines as soon as possible", and would be working with Flybe staff "to help them find new work in travel or other industries".

UK Civil Aviation Authority chief Richard Moriarty said: "This is a sad day for UK aviation and we know that Flybe's decision to stop trading will be very distressing for all of its employees and customers.

"We urge passengers planning to fly with this airline not to go to the airport as all Flybe flights are cancelled.

"For the latest advice, Flybe customers should visit the CAA website or the CAA's Twitter feed for more information.

"Flybe also operated a number of codeshare partnerships with international airlines. If you have an international ticket you should make contact with that airline to confirm your travel arrangements."