British airline Flybe, an early casualty to COVID-19, plans to return to the skies in 2021 after a new investment lifeline. As long as it can find airplanes, that is…
Flybe Plans 2021 Relaunch
The defunct carrier went under in March 2020, taking over 2,000 jobs with it. COVID-19 was a co-morbidity, not the sole cause of death, but certainly the final nail in the coffin for an airline that had been struggling for years over Brexit, currency volatility, and higher fuel costs.
Flybe’s assets, including its brand name, were sold to Thyme Opco, an entity linked to the same company that bailed out bailout Flybe in 2019 via Virgin Atlantic. Prior to the pandemic, the plan was to rebrand Flybe under the Virgin banner and create a feeder network for Virgin Atlantic.
Flybe will operate as a regional airline, with service to began as early as 2021. But there is a problem: the carrier currently has no fleet. Indeed, all that is left is the branding and office equipment. But in an era of surplus aircraft, leasing the right aircraft equipment is not an insurmountable burden, even on a short-term horizon.
There’s also another problem: unless EU and British lawmakers iron out their differences, British carriers may not be able to even serve EU destinations.
Heralding the relaunch, Simon Edel, a joint administrator, noted:
“The restart of this iconic brand, which was once Europe’s largest regional airline, will provide a potentially significant boost to aviation jobs, regional connectivity and local economies.”
A spokesperson from Thyme Opco told The Guardian:
“While we plan to start off smaller than before, we expect to create valuable airline industry jobs, restore essential regional connectivity in the UK and contribute to the recovery of a vital part of the country’s economy.”
There is that small matter of leasing or buying aircraft, but this is good news for the UK and good news for aviation. The old joke that if you want to make $1 million in the airline industry you must start with $1 billion rings as a cautionary tale, especially now. However, there will likely always be a need for air service to regional UK cities so some successor to Flybe was bound to spring up. Why not just call it Flybe?
Are you excited about a potential Flybe relaunch in 2021?
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image: Tony Hisgett / Wikimedia Commons