Flybe 2.0: What Routes Could The Airline Operate?

Earlier this week, the new Flybe revealed that Birmingham would be its headquarters and its initial base, leading some to wonder why Southampton – well placed for UK domestic flights – wasn’t chosen first. Using data from experts RDC Aviation, we see where may make sense for Flybe 2.0 from Birmingham.

Flybe Q400
The ‘new’ Flybe will operate Dash-8-Q400s. Image: Darren Hillman via Flickr.

A summary: ‘old’ Flybe’s Birmingham network

In 2019, Birmingham in the West Midlands was Flybe’s second busiest airport by total flights, analyzing OAG schedules indicates. Almost one-third of the airport’s services were by the regional operator, a fair chunk, although not as much as Southampton or Belfast City.

The Dash-8-Q400 was vital at Birmingham. More than three in ten of Flybe’s movements were by the fast turboprop, helping to achieve high average frequencies. Flybe had 29 routes from the airport, with the top-15 by the Q400 (the type the new Flybe will operate) being:

  1. Belfast City
  2. Edinburgh
  3. Glasgow
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Amsterdam
  6. Düsseldorf
  7. Jersey
  8. Inverness
  9. Guernsey
  10. Knock
  11. Newquay
  12. Hamburg
  13. Isle of Man
  14. Bordeaux
  15. Bergerac
Flybe's 2019 network from Birmingham
Flybe’s Birmingham network in 2019. Image: OAG Mapper.

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What routes might Flybe 2.0 operate?

We can only make educated guesses about routes that may materialize. Management at the new carrier is likely to be close to deciding, obviously influenced by the current environment, the significantly depressed business demand, and past performance.

While past performance is no indication of the future, especially as other things have changed, it can be highly insightful. Using RDC Aviation’s Apex Route Performance module, the following figure indicates approximate average fares per route in the year to March 2020, excluding taxes.

Guernsey (GCI), Jersey (JER), Edinburgh (EDI), Amsterdam (AMS), Paris (CDG), and Brest (BES) all stand out, although most are also served by other carriers. Various other routes look intriguing too, such as La Rochelle (LRH), Bergerac (EGC), and Stuttgart (STR), the latter driven by the car industry.

Analysis by anna.aero in 2020 found that Birmingham to CDG was Flybe’s second most profitable international route, but will the new Flybe have any relationship with Air France-KLM?

Flybe Birmingham fares per route
Generally speaking, shorter routes (in the blue circle) were higher yielding than longer (in orange), which is what you’d expect. Of course, fares are just one part of the route performance puzzle. Image: RDC Aviation.

Birmingham to Belfast, Edinburgh & Glasgow

These three markets were Flybe’s core from Birmingham in 2019. Between them, they had four in ten flights driven by high-frequency services. Flybe also had early morning departures from Birmingham, something not offered by replacement carriers.

It’ll be fascinating to see if any of these return given other operators serve them, although they still have far fewer flights than previously. This reflects the current lower business demand and the type of airlines and aircraft. The following table highlights how they’ve changed based on an example week.

In the first week of summer 2019, Flybe had 120 departures to these three destinations. In contrast, in the first week of next summer, there will be just 53, a drop of 56%. More than this, the schedule for each has changed markedly.

Birmingham to…Departures in the first week of summer 2019Departures in the first week of summer 2022% changeReplacement carrierReplacement aircraft
Edinburgh3913-67%easyJetA320, A319
Glasgow3717-54%easyJetA320, A319
Belfast City4423-48%Aer LingusATR-72
Totals12053

Business day trips are now harder

While Flybe had Tuesday departures to Edinburgh at 07:00, 08:40, 12:40, 15:15, 17:10, 19:00, and 20:40, obviously tailor-made for business travel and competing with trains, with easyJet, it’s 08:45 and 21:00.

The schedule isn’t now particularly conducive to business day trips in either direction. While business travel will undoubtedly rise again, to what degree will it return and when? Will it warrant multi-weekday services when other airlines now operate?

Where would you like the new Flybe to serve from Birmingham? Let us know in the comments.

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