UK regional airline Flybe has cancelled dozens of flights at short notice today. This comes amid reports that the airline is shutting down operations at two of its bases within the next six months, and severely scaling back at a third.
Just when things were starting to look up for UK regional airline Flybe, the carrier has cancelled dozens of flights amid a new flurry what they’re calling ‘operational issues’.
Destinations affected by the cancellations included Birmingham, Newcastle, Southampton, Belfast City, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Most of the flights were within the UK.
It is estimated that around 30 flights were cancelled. While Flybe insist that only 5% of its daily schedule was affected, that’s of little consolation to passengers who were reliant on the service to get where they needed to go.
What’s going on at Flybe?
The regional airline has been in financial difficulty for some time, posting losses of almost £20m. However, they were thought to be on the road to recovery when a Virgin Atlantic led consortium bought them out in February.
The plan was to keep everything at Flybe largely the same, with the extensive UK regional network operating as usual. Eventually, Virgin plan to rebrand the Flybe aircraft to bring them in line with Virgin’s marketing; everything was looking up for the little airline that could.
But today’s sudden cancellation of lucrative routes has given us the shivers. It all sounds painfully familiar.
Easter holidays to blame
However, Flybe aren’t admitting any fundamental problems with finances, at least not yet. In fact, they’ve blamed the cancellations on ‘an industry wide shortage of pilots’ and, bizarrely, the Easter holidays.
In a statement, they said:
“We are doing our best to mitigate the impact of the current situation that has arisen due to a combination of factors including seasonality, pilots’ end of leave year, Easter holidays, base restructuring and the shortage of pilots across the industry that Flybe has highlighted over recent months.
“We have already identified several mitigation actions and will be issuing further updates throughout the day. All those affected have been emailed and advised they can re-book for travel on an alternative flight or apply for a full refund.”
Flight cancellations – Wednesday 3rd April 2019 pic.twitter.com/nvn5TdH8zs
— Flybe ✈ (@flybe) April 3, 2019
But is this the whole story?
It has also come to light that Flybe are making huge cuts to their operations, effective at the end of summer 2019. Included in these cuts is a complete closure of their ejet bases at Cardiff and Doncaster, with a huge cull taking place at their Exeter base.
General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, Brian Strutton, said:
We’re very disappointed to learn that Flybe has decided to close two of its bases (Cardiff and Doncaster), and scaling back at Exeter. This will come as a shock to all staff. BALPA will be working closely with the airline to ensure pilots’ jobs are protected and that this difficult process is handled as professionally as possible.”
Undoubtedly the base closure notice and the sudden cancellation of flights are linked. How this has happened with the Connect Airways backing in place is unclear. As usual, Simple Flying will keep you updated with further news as it becomes available.
The latest in a series of unfortunate events
This is the latest disruption in a week where Flybe have become the laughing stock of UK aviation. Grandly announcing new connections from Newquay in Cornwall to London Heathrow, the service was promptly thrown into chaos before the first flight had even departed.
Promising to connect passengers in the far southwest of England with the busy London airport ‘for less than the cost of the train’, the first flight on the new route failed to depart, due to a ‘technical issue’ with the aircraft. Instead, passengers hopeful of getting to London in just an hour were faced with a six hour journey… by bus.
The flight BE2187 was due to begin boarding at 18.15 on Sunday. But 15 minutes after boarding was supposed to start, an announcement was made that the flight was indeed cancelled.
Some passengers opted to stay in Cornwall overnight, but those with commitments in London the next day had no choice but to take the overnight bus. Passenger Chris Dennis said,
“Got to Heathrow at 3am. Work tomorrow at 8am. Never again.”
The rest were put on the next flight out of Cornwall, at 14.15 on Monday, but reported that the airline was unhelpful in arranging taxis and overnight accommodation. Flybe confirmed that passengers would be eligible for compensation to the tune of £215 for the cancellation.
What next for Flybe?
Things are looking pretty bleak for Flybe right now. All signals are pointing to severe financial difficulties and a potential that they will cease flying in the near future. With the support of Virgin’s Connect Airways in place, we sincerely hope they can recover from this, but, as always, will keep our readers informed.
What do you think is going on at Flybe? Tell us in the comments.