Flybe Loses Legacy London Slots As CAA Revokes Operating License

Despite appealing directly to the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Flybe 2.0 has failed to stop its predecessor’s operating license from being revoked. Shapps upheld the decision of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, so the license was ended on June 3rd. That means Flybe’s valuable legacy slots at Heathrow will now be returned to the slot coordinator.

Flybe’s revival has hit a snag as the legacy Heathrow slots have been lost. Photo: Getty Images

Heathrow slots lost for the new Flybe

The all-new Flybe is facing a significant hurdle to its hoped-for launch later in the year. Following an earlier decision of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to revoke the carriers operating license, the new Flybe had appealed directly to the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to step in.

However, the outcome of the appeal has not gone Flybe’s way. As reported by the Telegraph, Shapps backed the decision of the CAA to revoke the license, confirming the ruling on June 3rd.

While the revocation of the license won’t prevent Flybe from operating – it has already obtained a new license for the new airline – it does have an impact on the collateral that came with the old Flybe. Most important of that was its Heathrow slots, which will no longer be a part of the package.

Had the old license been upheld, the new Flybe would have had the choice of operating to London Heathrow in line with its capacity allocation. However, the worry for the CAA was that the new airline had no intention of operating the slots, and could therefore have sold them for an eye-watering amount of money.

Flybe Dash-8-400
Flybe’s LHR slots are estimated to be worth around £10 million on the sale market. Photo: Getty Images.

The Telegraph estimates that the seven pairs of slots under Flybe’s ownership could be worth around £10 million ($14 million). Pre-pandemic, they might have been worth a lot more. Whether Flybe would have operated or sold the slots is academic now, however, as they will be returned to the slot coordinators for redeployment.

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What’s next for the new Flybe?

At present, the loss of the former operating license doesn’t seem to have deterred the startup’s investors from committing to a relaunch. Despite lawyers working for the administrator EY telling the CAA earlier in the year that the slots are essential for the business, there’s been no sign of the deal falling through as a result of the decision.

Indeed, a spokesperson for EY told the Telegraph,

“The decision will not impact the wider administration or the sale of the company’s business or assets to the purchaser, Flybe Limited, formerly known as Thyme Opco Limited. The new entity, Flybe Limited, is independently and separately licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority, and will continue to hold a valid and active licence.”

flybe Dash 8 400
Just one aircraft remains registered to the new airline. Photo: Getty Images.

However, the final fate of the new Flybe rests in the hands of Cyrus Capital, the investor leading the revival of the carrier. Things have been moving forward, with a single aircraft stored in Exeter registered to the new airline. The Dash 8-Q400 arrived in February from Zagreb, but has not operated any flights since early March.

According to ch-aviation, the new Flybe did secure some additional slots for limited services from London Heathrow. These are to Aberdeen Dyce and Edinburgh, and would see it fully taking over British Airways’ presence on these routes. However, no route has been launched, and the slots are unsecured after the end of the summer season.

The Telegraph notes that slots were also secured at Birmingham and Manchester, giving hope that the airline’s revival could be afoot. But the new Flybe will need more than one plane and a handful of slots to make a meaningful comeback. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.