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Planes grounded

Struggling Flybe collapses as coronavirus strikes

Flybe contributed

Rescue efforts failed

UPDATE 5 March: Struggling airline Flybe has become one of the first corporate casualties of the coronavirus.

Planes were impounded at UK airports and passengers turned away ahead of the ailing airline plunging into administration and putting 2,000 jobs at risk.

Just before 3.30am it issued a statement advising customers “not travel to the airport” unless they have arranged an alternative flight.

The low-cost European carrier has seen a slump in bookings since the outbreak of the coronavirus. In the past week, bookings at the airline are understood to have fallen by almost 50% due to Covid-19 fears and it is expecting a significant hit to revenues.

It was facing fresh doubts over its future after failing to secure a £100 million government loan.  

In its statement, Flybe CEO Mark Anderson expressed his “deep regret” that, after making every possible attempt to secure the airline’s long-term future, the company has been forced to enter administration with immediate effect.

This has been compounded by the outbreak of coronavirus

– Mark Anderson, Flybe

It said Europe’s largest independent regional airline has been unable to overcome “significant funding challenges” to its business.

“This has been compounded by the outbreak of coronavirus which in the last few days has resulted in a significant impact on demand. The airline has provided vital connectivity between the UK regions for over 40 years.  All flights operated by Flybe have been cancelled with immediate effect.”

Mr Anderson added: “The UK has lost one of its greatest regional assets. 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.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Following a commercial decision by the company, Flybe has ceased trading.   

“We recognise the impact this will have on Flybe’s passengers and staff. Government staff will be on hand at all affected UK airports to help passengers.  

“The vast majority of Flybe routes are served by different transport options, and we have asked bus and train operators to accept Flybe tickets and other airlines to offer reduced rescue fares to ensure passengers can make their journeys as smoothly as possible.   

“We are working closely with industry to minimise any disruption to routes operated by Flybe, including by looking urgently at how routes not already covered by other airlines can be re-established by the industry.   

“Through the reviews of regional connectivity and Airport Passenger Duty we have announced, we will bring forward recommendations to help ensure that the whole of the UK has the connections in place that people rely on.  

“Flybe’s financial difficulties were longstanding and well documented and pre-date the outbreak of COVID-19.”  

Passengers were turned away from flights out of Scotland and elsewhere on Wednesday night.

Flybe initially blamed the disruption to flights at Glasgow Airport on ‘miscommunication’ over refuelling of two services to Birmingham.

However, a Flybe plane to Exeter was ordered to be grounded at Manchester Airport. The Notice of Detention of Aircraft banned the plane from taking off.

The airline was reported as saying it has enough financial resources to survive “until the end of this month” thanks to support from its owners. But this turned out to be a false dawn.

It was announced in January that Flybe had been rescued after government efforts led by the former chancellor Sajid Javid and ex-business secretary Andrea Leadsom. The measures – part of a pledge to support the regions of Britain – included some deferral of tax, talks over a £100 million loan and promised reviews into regional air connectivity and air passenger duty (APD).

Other airlines objected to Flybe being the recipient of tax payer money given the airline is owned by deep-pocketed owners Virgin Atlantic, logistics company Stobart and multi-billion dollar US hedge fund Cyrus Capital.

Flybe served around 170 destinations and has a major presence at UK airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton. It flies the most UK domestic routes between airports outside London.

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