Before we all think something amazing has happened with Flybe, lets not get too far ahead of ourselves. Tyme Opco, the new legal owner, is controlled by Lucien Farrell, who is a very wealthy partner at Cyrus Capital’s European office. The hedgefund were the backers of Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Aviation’s bid to save the airline late last year and into 2020. So what that means is, the biggest investors from the remains of the old Flybe have just bought it all back using a different corporate entity.
The intention then was to rebrand it as Virgin Connect. The purpose was to get more flights into Heathrow and feed Virgin Atlantic’s otherwise entirely long haul business.
Up to that point Flybe had just a couple of slots a day into the airport and those were only granted based on domestic essential need, and had to be extracted from BA by the CAA.
IAG dominates domestic UK air travel into Heathrow. Aer Lingus grabbed the routes from Belfast Flybe once used, and BA has a monopoly of all the others. EasyJet and Ryan air have grabbed whatever else was viable, from regional airports, although Covid has prevented them from consolidating that hold. Tiny LoganAir and Eastern have done their best to mop up some of the more profitable ‘short thin’ routes that they have the right type of aircraft to serve. Even so, much of Flybe’s old routes are left moribund. Most of them had no competitor, but they were often government subsidised Public Service routes that commercial airlines are mostly wary of.
Restarting Flybe on possibly a dozen routes in March-April 2021 would be extremely viable, and start to meet early northern summer season, including the Easter holidays, just as the world re-emerges from the second wave of pandemic, desperate for vacations to get away from the tedium of winter.
But just how will it re-emerge? Many words have been spoken but they don’t actually say anything.
This is a brilliant opportunity, lets hope it pans out positively.