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Flybe (UK)

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IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1 November 1979; 40 years ago (1979-11-01) (as Jersey European Airways)
AOC #601
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programTBA (formerly Avios)
Fleet size75
Company sloganClose to you
Parent companyConnect Airways

Flybe (pronounced /flabi/) styled as flybe, is a British airline based in Exeter, England. Until its sale to Connect Airways (January 2019), it was the largest independent regional airline in Europe. Flybe carries 8 million passengers a year between 81 airports across the UK and the rest of Europe, with over 210 routes across 15 countries. Its two hubs are Birmingham and Manchester airports but it also has a number of codeshares allowing connections to long-haul flights from airports such as London Heathrow, Paris CDG, Dublin and Amsterdam. The airline is a member of the European Regions Airline Association.[4]

The airline launched in 1979 as Jersey European Airways following the merger of Intra Airways and Express Air Services. In 1983 the airline was sold to Walker Steel Group, which also owned Spacegrand Aviation, and the two airlines were merged under the Jersey European name in 1985. Jersey European was renamed British European in 2000, and received its current name in 2002.

In February 2019, the airline was sold to the Connect Airways consortium,[5] backed by Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Aviation.[6] Connect Airways intends Flybe and Stobart Air to subsequently operate under a Virgin brand, though they will retain their own Air Operator Certificates.[7] Beginning in 2020, Flybe will be rebranded as Virgin Connect.[8][9]


Early years

Flybe started operations on 1 November 1979 as Jersey European Airways as a result of a merger of the Jersey-based Intra Airways and the Bournemouth-based Express Air Services,[10][11] and was founded by John Habin, a resident of Jersey and the majority investor. After selling Aviation Beauport and other business interests, Habin established some key routes from Jersey Airport to the UK, before selling the airline in November 1983 to Jack Walker's Walker Steel Group, which already owned the Blackpool-based charter airline Spacegrand Aviation. The two airlines were then run separately, with partially shared management, until 1985 when they amalgamated under the Jersey European name, with the airline's headquarters moving to Exeter Airport.[12]

The airline became British European in June 2000,[13] shortening this title to Flybe on 18 July 2002 and repositioning itself as a full-service, low-fare airline.

On 3 November 2006 it was announced that Flybe would buy BA Connect, except for that airline's services out of London City Airport. The takeover was complete in March 2007. The expanded airline's owners were Rosedale Aviation Holdings (69%), Flybe staff (16%) and as a result of the BA Connect takeover International Airlines Group (15%).[14] The acquisition increased Flybe's route network in both the UK and continental Europe, making Flybe Europe's largest regional airline.[15]

On 14 January 2008 it was announced that Flybe had signed a franchise agreement with Scottish airline Loganair, to commence on 26 October 2008 following the termination of Loganair's franchise agreement with British Airways on 25 October 2008. The agreement would see Loganair aircraft flying in Flybe colours on 55 routes from Scotland.[16]

In 2008, in order to avoid losing a £280,000 rebate from Norwich Airport, Flybe advertised for "actors", as well as offering free return flights to Dublin on its website.[17][18][19] As a result, the environmental group Friends of the Earth called on the government to launch an investigation into the aviation industry.[20]

Chief executive officer Jim French was recognised in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours List with a CBE for his services to the airline industry.[21]

Development since 2010

On 10 December 2010, Flybe floated in an IPO on the London Stock Exchange, with trading in shares commencing on the same day. Full public release of shares followed on 15 December 2010. The share price was set at 295p, valuing the company at approximately £215 million, and raising £66 million for the company, half of which was to pay for fleet expansion.[22][23]

On 23 May 2013, it was reported that Flybe had sold its slots at Gatwick Airport to EasyJet for £20 million, and that the slots would be handed over to EasyJet on 29 March 2014.[24] CEO and chairman Jim French retired in August 2013, leaving the post of CEO to Saad Hammad, formerly of EasyJet, while Simon Laffin became chairman.[25] By November 2013, Hammad had shaken up the operation, requesting the resignations of three top managers within six weeks of his arrival. Out of 158 routes flown at the time, over 60 did not cover their direct operating expenses and the costs of crew and aircraft.[25]

On 23 April 2014, Flybe announced that it would launch domestic and international flights from London City Airport from 27 October 2014 after signing a five-year deal with the airport. The airline is expecting to carry around 500,000 passengers a year, with all five allocated aircraft being based around the Flybe network overnight.[26] In March 2014, it was announced that Flybe would undergo a major brand refresh. This new scheme included a new purple aircraft livery, new interior features and new uniforms.[27][28] British Airways sold most of its remaining stake in the airline in June 2014. It had been reduced to 5% by share issues.

In early 2016 it was announced that Flybe had negotiated a six-year agreement with SAS Scandinavian Airlines to fly 4 ATR 729 aircraft on their behalf, starting in October 2016.[29] On 4 March 2015, Flybe announced new routes from Cardiff Airport bringing the number of routes to eleven. Flybe also stated their intention to create a new base at Cardiff Airport and in Summer 2015,[30] initially based two Embraer 195 aircraft there, which has since increased to three. On 10 November 2015, Flybe announced that it would base two Embraer 195 aircraft at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, starting new routes to Amsterdam, Berlin Tegel, Paris CDG, Jersey, Alicante, Málaga, Faro and Newquay as of 27 March 2016.[31][32] This announcement came on the same day that Flybe announced that they would be pulling flights from Bournemouth Airport.[33] Dublin Airport was added in October 2016, taking over where Stobart Air pulled out.

On 26 October 2016, it was announced that Hammad would be standing down as CEO with immediate effect, and that consequently Flybe were beginning the process of finding a replacement. On 21 November 2016, Flybe announced it was to open its first European base at Düsseldorf Airport. In February 2017 this commenced with two aircraft alongside 60 pilots, cabin crew and engineers. On 22 December 2016, Flybe started selling flights for 12 further destinations from Southend Airport, in an extension to their existing franchise operation with Stobart Air.[34]

Flybe and Loganair separately announced that their franchise agreement would terminate in October 2017. Flybe then announced a partnership with Eastern Airways and would now operate routes in direct competition with Loganair namely flights from the Scottish mainland to Stornoway, Kirkwall and Sumburgh. On 16 January 2017, former CityJet boss Christine Ourmieres-Widener, took over the role of CEO after Saad Hammad left in October 2016.[35] Later in the year, Flybe started flying from Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh taking over slots previously used by Virgin Atlantic Little Red.[36]

On 22 February 2018, franchise partner Stobart Air confirmed interest in a takeover bid of 100% of Flybe for an undisclosed fee.[37] However this bid was rejected by the carrier and Stobart scrapped its interest on 22 March 2018,[38] causing share prices in the airline, which had climbed by up to 25% following the bid, to drop back to their previous level.[39] In September 2018 a revised aircraft livery was launched, with purple and white being retained but lilac replacing the red and yellow. On 14 November 2018, after the airline's shares fell by 75%, Flybe announced that it was talking with various parties about a potential sale of the business, as part of a wide-ranging review of strategic options.[40][41] On 22 November, it emerged that Virgin Atlantic was one of the parties with which Flybe had been holding discussions; Flybe's slots at Heathrow were of particular interest to Virgin Atlantic, along with the potential to use Flybe to feed passengers into the Virgin Atlantic hubs at Manchester and London Heathrow.[42][43]

Connect Airways takeover

On 11 January 2019, a takeover bid worth £2.2 million by the Connect Airways consortium, which includes Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Aviation, was confirmed. The consortium would initially lend £20 million to enable Flybe to continue operations, and would also take over Stobart Air; after the acquisition is complete it will provide a further £80 million. This initial deal, which would have been conditional on shareholder and court approval,[6] was expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2019.[44] Flybe and Stobart Air would subsequently operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand[45] though they would retain their own Air Operator Certificates.[7] Optimisation of Flybe's routes is likely to result in a "limited reduction" in its fleet.[44]

On 15 January 2019, Connect Airways increased its offer by £600,000, and set out improved bridging loan conditions, with £10 million to be released immediately to support Flybe's business, and a further £10 million available. Subsequent funding of £80 million was also confirmed. In accepting the revised offer, Flybe's board stated that it provides the security that the business needs and preserves the interests of its stakeholders, customers, employees, partners and pension members.[46] The deal, which covers Flybe Group's operating subsidiaries, i.e. the airline and the website,[47] is to be completed by 22 February 2019.[48]

Flybe Group's shareholders had decided in December 2018 to transfer its shares to a standard listing,[49] meaning that shareholder approval for the sale of the assets is no longer required.[48] Notwithstanding this change, on 21 January 2019 one of the largest shareholders, Hosking Partners, threatened legal action to block the deal, which it believes undervalues the company.[50] On 4 February 2019, Flybe confirmed that it had received a valid request from Hosking Partners to convene a general meeting in order to appoint a new director, but noted that Flybe's articles of association do not give members the powers needed for the new director's proposed investigation of the sale.[51][52] It also confirmed that it had received, and rejected, a preliminary alternative bid from former Stobart CEO Andrew Tinkler.[53] On 7 February, Flybe Group warned its shareholders that, after the sale of the operating assets, the parent company would be wound up if they did not approve its sale.[47] On 20 February, Flybe said it had rejected an alternative "preliminary and highly conditional contingency proposal" from Mesa Air Group and supported by Andrew Tinkler, noting that it could not be executed quickly enough to enable the airline to continue trading.[54]

On 21 February 2019, Flybe announced that the sale of Flybe Limited and Flybe.com Limited to Connect Airways had been completed,[5] with Flybe flights continuing to operate as normal. The sale of the parent company, Flybe Group plc – now an empty shell – was confirmed by its shareholders at a meeting on 4 March[55] and became effective on 11 March.[56]

It was announced in October 2019 that Flybe will be rebranded as Virgin Connect, reflecting its incorporation into the Virgin Group. This will come into effect at the beginning of 2020.[8][9]

Corporate affairs

Ownership and structure

The former owner, Flybe Group plc, was a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSEFLYB).[57] Until November 2013, the main shareholder, with 48.1% of the shares, was Rosedale Aviation Holdings Limited,[58] the corporate representative of the trustee of the Jack Walker 1987 Settlement, which was established by the late Jack Walker, who was involved in Flybe's early development.

In the UK, Flybe's largest base is at Birmingham Airport[59] and it has other large bases at Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton airports, with a total of 14 crew and aircraft bases across the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The airline holds a Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence permitting it to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats.[60] The Flybe Group included Flybe Aviation Services (engineering and maintenance), Flybe Training Academy (engineering and flight crew training), Flybe UK (airline operations) and Flybe Europe, the holding company for all European operations, which previously consisted of Flybe Nordic.

Business trends

The trends for Flybe Group over recent years are shown below (as at year ending 31 March):

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Group turnover (total, less JV) (£m) 367.5 535.9 572.4 570.5 595.5 615.3 614.3 620.5 574.1 623.8 707.4 752.6
Profit before tax (EBITDA) (£m) 16.2 30.4 0.1 5.7 7.6 7.1 23.2 8.1 35.6 2.7 48.5 9.4
Profit after tax (£m) 19.9 34.9 4.1 6.7 3.8 6.4 41.8 8.0 35.7 6.8 26.7 N/A
Number of employees (average/*year end) 1,931 3,197 2,860 2,798 2,949 2,781 2,667 2,650 2,069* 2,262* 2,388* 2,346*
Number of passengers (scheduled) (m) 5.2 7.0 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.6 7.2 7.7 7.7 8.2 8.8 9.5
Passenger load factor (schedule) (%) N/A N/A 65.4 63.5 61.7 61.9 62.6 69.5 75.2 72.6 69.6 75.6
Number of aircraft (average/*year end) 81* 80* 68 67 68 84 81 97 66* 74* 83* 80*
Notes/sources [61] [61] [58][62] [58][63] [58][64] [58] [58] [65] [66] [67] [67]
Joint ventures and franchises

Loganair was the first franchise partner for Flybe and operated a number of flights in Scotland and Ireland under a franchise agreement from 2008. Loganair aircraft wore the full Flybe livery during the time of the franchise. In 2016 it was announced that the agreement was to end on 31 August 2017 at which time Loganair would become an independent carrier.

In 2014 Flybe signed their second franchise agreement with Stobart Air[68] and initially started operating European routes from Southend Airport. In 2015 Stobart Air began operating more flights on behalf of Flybe from Isle of Man Airport using two ATR 72.[69] In 2017 Flybe and Stobart Air began operating additional services from Southend Airport using Flybe Embraer 195 jet aircraft.

On 11 January 2016, Flybe announced its third franchise deal with the Guernsey based airline, Blue Islands. This would see all Blue Islands flights operated under the Flybe name, and the Blue Islands aircraft livery replaced with the current Flybe livery from May 2016.[70] This deal is however under investigation and could be potentially breaking local competition laws.[71]

From 1 September 2017 Eastern Airways became a new franchise partner for Flybe taking over routes previously operated by Loganair from Aberdeen Airport, Glasgow Airport and Edinburgh Airport.[72] This now meant both Flybe and Loganair were now in direct competition with each other. In January 2018 services to Sumburgh were being withdrawn, owing to the competition with Loganair and the route being unable to sustain two carriers.[73] It was also announced that Loganair was withdrawing services from Glasgow to Manchester leaving Flybe as the sole operator on that route.

Flybe purchased Finncomm Airlines with Finnair in July 2011,[74] and on 30 October 2011 rebranded the airline as Flybe Nordic. The joint venture operated its own routes along with franchise routes under a codeshare agreement for Finnair, operating under Flybe's BE-code. Flybe agreed to sell its 60% stake in Flybe Nordic in November 2014 for 1, in an attempt to reduce group costs.[75] On 1 May 2015, Flybe Nordic began operating solely for Finnair as it is no longer a part of Flybe. Flybe Nordic is now known as Nordic Regional Airlines Norra.[76]


Flybe are the main sponsor of Exeter City Football Club and also sponsor Exeter Chiefs with their branding featuring on both teams shirts. Flybe has also sponsored the weather bulletins on ITV Meridian, STV, ITV West Country, Channel Television, UTV, ITV Wales with Cardiff Airport and the sport sections of the Manchester Evening News, the Express & Echo (Exeter), the South Wales Echo (Cardiff), the Isle of Man Courier and the Isle of Man Examiner.

In the past, Flybe sponsored Birmingham City (20032007), Norwich City (20062008), Southampton (20062010) and Inverness Caledonian Thistle (20072010).


Frequent-flyer programmes

Flybe used the Avios frequent-flyer programme until 30 April 2019, when Flybe and Avios ended their partnership and all accounts were closed.[77] The programme is operated by the IAG subsidiary Avios Group.

Cabin and service

Flybe's cabin interiors are configured with a single-class all-economy layout. Flybe operates an allocated seating policy on all flights. Passengers have the option to choose a specific seat of their choice online in advance for a fee or have one allocated free of charge during online check-in or at the airport check-in. The airline operates a buy on board programme, called "Café Flybe", offering food and drinks for purchase. On most flights to and from the Channel Islands a selection of Duty Free spirits and tobacco items are available to purchase.

Passengers have the option of three ticket types. "Just Fly", "Get More" and "All In".

  • "Just Fly" is the most basic ticket type, with just the flight included and any extra options available to add for an additional fee.
  • "Get More" ticket holders get to reserve a seat and includes free 23 kg hold bag.[78]
  • "All In" ticket holders receive a complimentary drink and snack, access to Flybe Executive Lounges, free pre-booked seating, priority check-in and two free hold bags.[79]


Flybe operates short haul services to destinations throughout the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and continental Europe.

Partnerships and codeshare agreements

Flybe codeshares with the following airlines under the 'One Stop to the World' programme :[80][81]


Current fleet

As of October 2019, the Flybe fleet consists of the following aircraft:[82]

Flybe fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
ATR 72-600 3 70 Operated for Scandinavian Airlines.[83][84]
De Havilland Dash 8-400 54 78
Embraer 175 11 88
Embraer 195 3 118 All aircraft to be returned to lessor before end FY19/20.[85]
Total 72
Fleet strategy and developments

Flybe is phasing out its Embraer 195s, which will be returned to lessors once retired. Flybe has stated the Q400 is to remain the backbone of its fleet going forward.[85]

Dash 8 Q400

Flybe is the world's largest operator of the Dash 8 Q400. In May 2007, the airline signed a deal with Bombardier for a further 15 Q400 aircraft valued at US$394 million (£197 million), with options for a further 15, increasing its fleet of the type to 60.[86] In September 2014, Republic Airways agreed to lease 24 of their Q400 aircraft to Flybe.[87] In June 2017, Flybe announced that due to a loss of near to £20 million, it would retire six Q400 aircraft from 2017.[88]

Embraer 175

On 20 July 2010, Flybe placed an order for 35 Embraer 175 aircraft worth US$1.3 billion (£850 million), with options for 65 more (value $2.3 bn/£1.5 bn) and purchase rights for a further 40 (value $1.4 bn/£0.9 bn). The 88-seat aircraft was originally planned to be delivered between July 2011 and March 2017,[89] with the first two aircraft actually arriving in November 2011.[90] In September 2014, Flybe reached an agreement with Embraer to cancel 20 orders for the E-175 jets, and defer delivery of the other four until further notice.[citation needed]

Embraer 195

The airline placed an order for 14 Embraer 195 aircraft in June 2005, plus options on an additional 12 aircraft, making it the type's worldwide launch customer. This was followed by the conversion of four existing Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 options into firm orders, bringing its fleet of Q400s to 45 when delivered.[91] Flybe received its first 118-seat Embraer 195 in September 2006, and the aircraft began to replace its existing BAe 146s, completing the fleet rationalisation started in 2003. The E-195s were fitted with a Head-up Guidance System (HGS) and configured to offer single-class service.

In 2018, Flybe completed a review of its future fleet. They contacted several manufacturers including Embraer, ATR and Bombardier Aerospace to find the best fit for the airline.[92] On 16 May 2018, Flybe announced that the Bombardier Q400 would remain its core aircraft; all of the E195 aircraft in the fleet would be withdrawn by 2020 but a number of E175s would be retained for busier routes.[93] On 3 April 2019, Flybe confirmed its intention to withdraw six of its E195s in 2019 and the remainder in 2020; its bases at Cardiff and Doncaster will be closed and these destinations served by Q400s from other bases.[85]

Historical fleet

Flybe has in the past operated a wide variety of aircraft, including:


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External links

Media related to Flybe at Wikimedia Commons

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