Britain’s much-missed regional carrier Flybe has moved a step closer to making a comeback, as details have emerged of the airline’s new owner applying for a UK operating license. But with no planes, no people, and likely no slots at major airports, it will be a tough uphill climb for the airline to get back in the skies.
Flybe moves a step closer to relaunch
Europe’s biggest regional airline Flybe could be back in business sooner than we thought. According to reports from the Telegraph today, the airline’s new owner has already applied for a license to begin operating flights.
Thyme Opco, a holding company set up by Cyrus Capital a couple of months ago, has made an application to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority on behalf of Flybe. The holding company is essentially a shell company and was responsible for purchasing Flybe’s brand, stock, and equipment from its administrators back in October.
When the deal was done, a spokesperson told the BBC that,
“The airline is not only a well-known UK brand, it was also the largest regional air carrier in the EU, so 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.”
It was hoped that, when the Cyrus owned shell company bought Flybe’s assets, it signaled a relaunch of the carrier. The application for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) is the first positive step towards a resurrection of Flybe we’ve seen to date and could indicate a relaunch of the airline at some point next year.
What’s left of Flybe?
When Flybe went into administration in March, it owned no aircraft of its own. At the time, it had the world’s biggest fleet of Dash 8-400s, but these aircraft were leased and went back to their owners following the collapse of the company. What Thyme Opco essentially purchased was the web address, the brand, and likely some peripheral bits and bobs such as uniforms and spare parts.
At the time, it was unknown whether the airline’s AOC was still valid. The Civil Aviation Authority had formally revoked its license when the company entered administration. There was some hope that the license could be reinstated, which would give it back access to slots at major airports.
The fact that the owner has applied for a fresh license suggests this has not been reinstated, and rather that it has had to apply as a new airline. So Cyrus is starting out with very little indeed – no planes, no slots, no people – but still has the backing of what was once a very strong brand in regional European aviation.
It’s going to have a long upward climb to get Flybe back in the air, but it’s a service that is still very much missed. Recent analysis by anna.aero shows that at least 11 of Flybe’s 15 most profitable routes remain unserved, despite competitors moving in to cover at least some of the connectivity.
Already, Virgin Atlantic has said it is ready to partner with a resurrected Flybe. With lucrative routes still on the table and Flybe’s former shareholder still clearly interested in the airline, we could yet see the rebirth of this keen regional connecter.