Britain’s biggest regional airline, Flybe, is reported to be on the brink of collapse.
The carrier is in last-ditch negotiations to secure additional funding, according to Sky News.
The broadcaster reported the airline was “locked in survival talks” to try to secure additional funding – and that the accountancy firm EY is on standby to handle the possible administration of the Flybe Group.
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A spokesperson for the airline said: “Flybe continues to provide great service and connectivity for our customers while ensuring they can continue to travel as planned.
“We don’t comment on rumour or speculation.”
The Department for Transport is said to be involved in trying to keep the airline aloft and setting up contingency plans. A government spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation or the financial affairs of private companies.”
The general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), Brian Strutton, said: “I am appalled that once again the future of a major UK airline and hundreds of jobs is being discussed in secret with no input from employees or their representatives.
“We demand that the owners of Flybe – Virgin, Stobart and Cyrus – and the government departments involved stop hiding and talk to us about Flybe.
“We have a right to be consulted and the staff have a right to know what is going on.”
Flybe put itself up for sale late in 2018, warning that it was fast running out of cash.
The troubled carrier was rescued in March 2019 by a consortium comprising Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and a US hedge fund, Cyrus Capital.
The three bought Flybe for a nominal price of £2.8m but then pumped in tens of millions of pounds to keep the heavily loss-making airline afloat. The consortium, known as Connect Airways, said it had “plans to grow Flybe’s regional network”.
The airline was said to be rebranding as Virgin Connect, with the route network adjusted to increase connectivity with Virgin Atlantic services from Heathrow and Manchester.
The new chief executive, Mark Anderson, said last year: “I couldn’t be more excited by the opportunity we have to build a strong platform in the UK.
“Our whole team is focused on redefining the experience for our customers, as we rediscover the excitement and passion of being Europe’s largest regional airline.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: ”We are not commenting on speculation.”
Flybe employs around 2,000 people. Talks have begun on reducing the workforce ahead of the rebranding.
Flybe began life in 1979 as Jersey European Airways. It became British European in 2000, and changed its name again to Flybe two years later.
The airline is based in Exeter and operates almost 200 routes in the UK and Europe. Flybe operates the majority of UK domestic flights that do not begin or end in London, with frequent links between Scottish and English airports, and many routes to and from George Best Belfast City.
Flybe also serves near-European cities such as Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Paris. At a dozen UK airports, including Aberdeen, Belfast City, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Southampton, it operates the highest number of flights.
In September 2019, Thomas Cook collapsed with the loss of 9,000 jobs in the UK – including many working for Thomas Cook Airlines.