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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
|From||To||Departures: week starting Aug. 13th 2019||Same week: 2021||% change in departures||Actual change in departures|
|Belfast City||London City||33||14||-58||-19|
|Isle of Man||Manchester||29||26||-10||-3|
|Belfast City||Leeds Bradford||25||14||-44||-11|
|Belfast City||East Midlands||23||14||-39||-9|
|Isle of Man||Liverpool||19||28||47||9|
|Birmingham||Isle of Man||7||7||0||0|
|Heathrow||Isle of Man||7||14||100||7|
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).
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.
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.
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!