The United Kingdom’s largest domestic carrier, Flybe, has entered administration and ceased operations. In the night from 4th to 5th March, Flybe flights were being cancelled and the aircraft reportedly seized under the Civil Aviation Act 1982.
The struggling airline has been seeking investment even following an acquisition by Connect Airways in July 2019. The airline was set to be rebranded as Virgin Connect in the coming year. The UK Government had even agreed in January to assist the airline by reducing Air Passenger Duty on Flybe flights – a tax paid for by passengers flying within the UK.
Earlier on the 4th March, it was revealed that Flybe was seeking a loan from the UK Government for £100 million to prevent its collapse, citing reduced passenger demand.
The global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus appears to have been the final nail in the coffin for the struggling airline, as demand for air travel has seen dramatic drop in the past weeks for fears of the virus spreading. British Airways, the UK’s flag carrier, this week announced that it would offer a booking period within which passengers may reschedule any booked flights for free, citing the fast global spread and localised attempts at controlling the virus.
This marks the fourth shutdown of a British airline within just three years. In September 2019, holiday company Thomas Cook Group, including its UK-based airline, ceased operations. Furthermore, regional operator Flybmi did the same in February last year. Two years before Thomas Cook, in October 2017, leisure carrier Monarch Airlines suspended flying.
Flybe was by far the largest operator of domestic flights in the United Kingdom. The airline was also flying to and from various regional airports across the country, some of which were almost exclusively served by Flybe. The company employed more than 2,000 people. Its fleet consisted of more than 50 De Havilland Canada DHC-8 Q400 turboprops, as well as a smaller number of Embraer E-Jet regional aircraft.
Matt is a Berlin-based writer and reporter for International Flight Network. Originally from London, he has been involved in aviation from a very young age and has a particular focus on aircraft safety, accidents and technical details.