Topline: British airline Flybe, which is the leading regional U.K carrier, collapsed after it succumbed to its financial woes and weakened demand because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
- Flybe’s collapse marks the first airline casualty since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak and puts 2,400 jobs at risk, while it is expected to hamper hit businesses and transport links around its regional British hubs.
- Passengers have been advised not to go to the airport as flights will not be operating. Flybe said in a statement: “All flights have been grounded and the UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect.”
- The airline is Europe’s largest independent regional carrier and, critically, served routes not serviced by other carriers, while it offered cheap domestic flights.
- But its collapse will deal a blow to the British government’s plans to increase transport links between U.K. regions.
Big number: 8 million. That’s how many passengers the airline carries a year.
Key background: Flybe narrowly escaped collapse in January, after being bought by Cyrus Capital, Virgin Atlantic and Stobart last year. Boris Johnson’s government agreed a rescue plan with Flybe’s owner weeks ago, to enable it to repay its $130 million (£100 million) debt, while its owners agreed to pour $38 million (£30 million) into the struggling airline. At the time, Johnson told the BBC: “Be in no doubt that we see the importance of Flybe in delivering connectivity across the whole United Kingdom.” On Thursday, the government said that Flybe’s problems predated the impact of coronavirus.
Chief critics: Pilots’ union BALPA said on Thursday it was “disgusted” at the “betrayal and broken promises” from the government.
General Secretary Brian Strutton said in a statement: “Six weeks ago, when the ownership consortium lost confidence the Government promised a rescue package, apparently at that time recognising the value of Flybe to the regional economy of the UK. Throughout, pilots, cabin crew and ground staff have done their jobs brilliantly, while behind the scenes the owners and, sadly, Government connived to walk away. Flybe staff will feel disgusted at this betrayal and these broken promises.”
News peg: Measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 worldwide—large scale lockdowns, travel restrictions and event cancellations—have put massive strain on the airline industry, which has seen a sharp drop in demand. Major U.S., European and Asian carriers have scrapped flights to hot spots to save costs and to contain the spread of the potentially deadly virus, while airlines including Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic asked staff to take unpaid leave. Airline industry body IATA predicts that the crisis could cost global airlines $30 billion, but with the pneumonia-like virus spreading around the world the total cost could be far higher.
I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night reporter at the Guardian. I studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where I was a writer and editor for one of the university’s global affairs magazines, the London Globalist. That led me to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed my M.A. in Journalism. Got a story? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter @bissieness. I look forward to hearing from you.