Flybe Rebrand Coming Following Connect Airways Sale Completion

After the completion of the sale of Flybe to Connect Airways, a rebrand of Flybe’s purple and its promise of being the ‘Fastest way from A to Flybe’ is on the cards.

Flybe to get a rebrand after sale to Connect Airways; Photo:Flybe

A final hurdle in the sale of Flybe to Connect Airways was approved by the European Commission yesterday, effectively paving the way for a rebrand of the U.K. regional airline.

While speaking about the approval with Business Live Connect Airways Chairmen Lucien Farrell said,

“Today is an important day as Connect Airways takes full control of Flybe, bringing the team together with Stobart Air. Under Mark’s leadership, the company has the opportunity to create a world-class offering for customers, combining a highly successful franchise flying business with Europe’s largest regional airline. I wish Mark and the team every success.”

Connect Airways CEO Mark Anderson was the former managing director of Virgin Holidays before making the move to oversee operations at Connect. Connect Airways was founded in December of 2018 by a consortium. This was made up of Cyrus Capital, Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart group, with the direct aim of acquiring Flybe.

This was after the Exeter based airline had issued a profit warning and put itself up for sale a month earlier. According to Business Traveler, Connect Airways issued a statement saying,

“Work is underway to develop an exciting new brand and customer proposition, which will be announced in due course.”

The statement went on to say that it would be an enhanced customer experience in line with the Virgin brand.”

“More choice for customers through improved connectivity between UK regional airports and Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network, particularly at London Heathrow and Manchester Airports.”

What went wrong for Flybe?

The problems began for Flybe after it went public on the London Stock Exchange in 2010.

Flybe to be rebranded
After getting into financial trouble Flybe was sold to Connect Airways. Photo:Flybe

The airline went on to use most of the money it had raised to purchase 35 jets from Brazilian planemaker Embraer, a huge order which proved to be a burden. Then followed a failed IT system upgrade that cost Flybe millions, and the decision to take on Loganair in Scotland.

By the time Flybe finally realized that they could not make their northerly expansion work, both Flybe and Loganair had lost millions. Being a primarily domestic airline, most of Flybe’s revenue is in pounds sterling, yet their debt was in dollars and euros. With the pound weakening following fears over Brexit, Flybe had trouble meeting the interest payment on debts.

Connect Airways

Put together solely to buy Flybe, Connect Airways is a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, the Stobart Group and hedge fund sponsor Cyrus Capital.

Virgin Atlantic
Flybe to be rebranded to look like Virgin Atlantic. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr

For Virgin Atlantic, the acquisition was looked on as a way to funnel passengers from other parts of the U.K. to its long-haul hubs in London and Manchester. Besides bringing passengers to its main hubs, Virgin Atlantic would have 78 more planes and new routes to fly to.

As for Stobart…

The Irish owned airline also owns two U.K. airports, one in Carlisle and one in Southend. It already operated flights on behalf of Flybe.

aer lingus stobart lease
Aer Lingus wet lease Stobart planes. Stobart owns Southend Airport. Photo: Mark Finlay/Flickr

Stobart’s Southend Airport already looks primed for an increase in traffic after Ryanair announced last year that they would open a hub at the Essex airport. Once the London Crossrail line opens in 2021, Southend Airport will be within easy reach of millions of Londoners giving them an alternative to other, busier London airports.

As for the rebrand we can expect to see all of Flybe’s planes repainted red and white and incorporated into the Virgin Atlantic fleet of aircraft.