UK airline Flybe collapses as virus hits flights worldwide - International | NTV

UK airline Flybe collapses as virus hits flights worldwide

By AFP

Thursday March 5, 2020

 

One of Britain's biggest airlines, Flybe, collapsed Thursday with passengers left stranded as the coronavirus epidemic takes a heavy toll on air travel around the world.

A statement on Flybe's website said the no-frills airline, which employs 2,000 people, had entered administration and could not arrange alternative flights for its passengers.

"All flights have been grounded and the UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect," said the company, which avoided going bust in January only after being granted a tax holiday by the government.

Flybe is the biggest operator of UK domestic flights and carries around eight million passengers annually.


But it failed to turn around its fortunes since being purchased by the Connect Airways consortium last year, initially owing to weak demand and fierce competition.

That has now been compounded by the new coronavirus, with a slew of airlines cancelling flights and warning profits would take a hit from decreased demand.

The announcement came hours after media reports that the airline could collapse following its failure to secure a £100 million ($129 million, 115 million euros) state loan
to help stabilise the business.

The impact of COVID-19 on travel "has made a bad situation much worse", sources told the BBC, while Bloomberg News reported Thursday that no agreement could be reached on a virus-related government bailout.

Small British airlines have suffered recently from volatile fuel costs and a weak pound.

Flybe operates from 43 airports across Europe and 28 in Britain, and its collapse left potentially thousands of people stranded far from home.

"If you are due to fly with Flybe, please DO NOT TRAVEL TO THE AIRPORT unless you have arranged an alternative flight with another airline," the airline said.

The British government said it had asked bus and train operators to accept Flybe tickets and other airlines to offer reductions to help passengers reach their destination.

"Flybe's financial difficulties were longstanding and well documented and pre-date the outbreak of COVID-19," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Flybe's owner, the Connect Airways consortium, is led by Virgin Atlantic and also includes investment firm Cyrus and infrastructure specialist Stobart.

Chief Executive Mark Anderson said "every possible attempt" had been made to avoid the collapse, but that the airline had been "unable to overcome significant funding challenges".

n January, Flybe said it had agreed a payment plan with authorities to defer tax payments of less than £10 million.