Which Routes Will Flybe 2.0 Be Likely To Operate?

Following the sale of Flybe last week and the carrier’s website now saying ‘Coming soon!’, Simple Flying sees that 48 of Flybe’s domestic UK routes in August 2019 are now operated by others. 17 remain unserved. If the new Flybe is to take flight, where might it operate?

Flybe Dash-8-400
48 of Flybe’s 65 domestic UK routes will be operated by others this coming mid-August. Photo: Getty Images.

The sale of Flybe’s business and assets was completed on April 13th for apparently £20 million, plus debt. This was to a company previously called Thyme Opco Limited and which will now be called Flybe Limited. They say that “a new airline is to launch this year,” with this reflected in a placeholder now found on Flybe’s homepage, as shown below.

Flybe's new website placeholder
With the sale of Flybe completed, the airline’s website has been updated. A new airline is planned to launch this year. Image: Flybe

What is the new Flybe considering?

According to a statement, a Flybe Limited spokesperson said:

“We plan to launch a new and much improved Flybe sometime this summer on many of our former routes where there remains a critical need for a strong, reliable, and customer-focused airline. While our company will initially be smaller than before, we intend to grow, create valuable jobs, and make significant contributions to essential regional connectivity in the UK and EU.”

Flybe Dash-8-400
Belfast City, Edinburgh, Manchester, Southampton, and Birmingham were Flybe’s top UK airports for domestic flights in the week beginning August 13th, 2019. Photo: Getty Images

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65 domestic UK routes

Flybe itself operated 65 domestic UK routes in the week starting August 13th, 2019, for which it used Dash-8-400s along with Embraer 175s and 195s. This rose to 88 if franchise routes are considered, analyzing OAG data shows. This is where various smaller regional airlines (Blue Islands, Eastern Airways, Loganair) used their own aircraft and crew and flew their own routes in Flybe colors.

Much has been written about how others have taken over Flybe’s routes, but little has looked at the specifics. Simple Flying has only looked at Flybe’s own services in the following analysis.

Flybe Dash-8-400
Heathrow to Newquay has 82% fewer weekly departures this August week than in 2019, at just five versus 28. Photo: Getty Images

Others now serve 48 routes

Other airlines now serve nearly three-quarters (74%) of Flybe’s 65 domestic UK routes (some already were when Flybe operated). However, while Flybe had 899 weekly departures on these 48 routes in this August 2019 week, there will now be 682, a reduction of nearly one-quarter (24%). The situation is notably worse when seat capacity is considered, given often smaller-gauge aircraft than Flybe’s Dash-8s and Embraers.

Note: source of data is OAG Schedules Analyzer.

FromToDepartures: week starting Aug. 13th 2019Same week: 2021% change in departures Actual change in departures
Belfast CityManchester4625-46-21
Belfast CityBirmingham4423-47-21
Aberdeen Manchester 3522-37-13
Belfast CityLondon City3314-58-19
Isle of ManManchester 2926-10-3
Belfast CityGlasgow2720-26-7
Belfast CityEdinburgh2619-27-7
Belfast CityLeeds Bradford2514-44-11
EdinburghLondon City24344210
Belfast CityEast Midlands 2314-39-9
ExeterManchester 2214-36-8
Belfast CitySouthampton196-68-13
Aberdeen Heathrow1926377
Isle of ManLiverpool1928479
Aberdeen Birmingham1815-17-3
EdinburghEast Midlands 130-100-13
East MidlandsGlasgow110-100-11
Belfast CityCardiff116-45-5
Aberdeen Belfast City7700
Belfast CityExeter7700
Belfast CityInverness7700
BirminghamIsle of Man7700
East MidlandsJersey78141
HeathrowIsle of Man7141007
Belfast CityDoncaster60-100-6
ExeterLondon City60-100-6
Leeds BradfordNewquay34331
Belfast CityNewquay20-100-2
Aberdeen Jersey10-100-1

25 routes have the same or higher frequencies

Virtually half of the 48 operated routes now have the same or higher frequencies than in August 2019. Of thicker routes, Edinburgh to Southampton is the same as it then was (26 weekly departures), likewise Glasgow to Southampton (25) and Newcastle to Southampton (18).

Not surprisingly, the South Coast airport of Southampton has fared better than other former Flybe bases, with all six of its former domestic routes now taken up; between them, they have just 15% fewer weekly departures in all. The main exceptions are Southampton to Belfast City (down by 13 weekly) and Jersey (down by nine).

Flybe Embraer 195
A handful of other routes have only one to three fewer departures, such as the Isle of Man to Manchester (29 versus 26). Photo: Getty Images

But 17 routes are still unserved

Despite the above, 17 of Flybe’s 65 domestic routes are still unserved. (Some were canned in Flybe’s restructuring, suggesting insufficient performance even then.) These are mainly thinner routes: 12 of the 17 had seven or fewer weekly departures. A good number are summer-driven, such as Aberdeen to Jersey and Newquay from Belfast and Birmingham. The latter two will almost certainly reappear at some point.

Others include those where overland transport is easier and/or quicker, notably Edinburgh and Glasgow to Manchester. These routes would be more viable if there were properly timed connections available at Manchester to feed onward travel.

Cardiff to Edinburgh stands out. It had 17 weekly departures in August 2019 but now has none. It is a relatively long route without easy overland transport. Flybe had operated it for years, including with Embraer 195s, although Bristol isn’t too far away.

Flybe's unserved routes
17 routes operated by Flybe in mid-August 2019 won’t be operated in mid-August 2021. Image: GCMap

Belfast City is the worst hit

Flybe itself operated 14 routes from Belfast City in this August 2019 week. While Aer Lingus Regional has taken up many of the core routes – Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester – and BA’s CityFlyer launched London City, the Northern Irish airport is the worst-hit.

It has 121 fewer weekly departures (-41%) this coming August week than two years ago. This is partly from the loss of Doncaster and Newquay, but mainly from far lower weekly services on thicker routes unhelped by COVID:

  • Birmingham: down by 21-weekly
  • Manchester: down by 21-weekly
  • London City: down by 19
  • Southampton: down by 13
  • Leeds Bradford: down by 11

Other hard-hit airports include Birmingham (96 fewer weekly departures, -51%) and Manchester (-81, -37%). Birmingham had nine Flybe routes. All are served except Newquay, with the big drop from far fewer services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Belfast City. easyJet began both Scottish cities, but they’re 13-weekly versus 40+ previously.

Flybe Dash-8-400
At Flybe’s main airports, Belfast City, Birmingham, and Manchester are the worst-hit. Photo: Getty Images

Bottom line

It isn’t surprising that many scoff at the idea of a new Flybe, given so many domestic routes have been taken up by others. And it is true; most have. Crucially, though, many are now served far less frequently than they were before, including normally fairly thick routes and those where overland access is much harder.

Of course, this is partly from coronavirus and very depressed demand, including for business travel. But as the UK seems to be emerging from the pandemic, Flybe Limited is likely looking to the future and seeing underserved opportunities – especially when it’s remembered that most routes now have smaller aircraft and fewer flights. If it does take off this summer, perhaps routes to Newquay or Jersey will be the safest bets.

What are your thoughts about the new Flybe? Do you think it’ll take off? Comment below!