Flybe To Get Virgin Brand After Asset Sale To Connect Airways

It is finally done! AfterFlybe will soon become a great asset for Virgin Atlantic as they battle British Airways for UK dominance.

Flybe operates regional routes primarily with Q400 aircraft. Photo: Wikimedia/Sebastien Mortier

Flybe’s extensive network will remain in operation. According to the airline, all flights will continue to operate as normal under the Flybe name, for now.

Virgin Atlantic will be using Flybe to connect passengers between long-haul and regional destinations. Virgin Atlantic does not have a strong share of domestic passengers given their mainly long-haul operations. This new acquisition is expected to give them a major boost.

As part of this acquisition, Virgin Atlantic will be rebranding Flybe.

Virgin Atlantic will be using Flybe to supplement their long-haul network. Photo: Wikipedia/Aero Pixels from England

Many will recall that Virgin Atlantic once attempted to set up their own domestic carrier as Little Red. Eccentric founder of Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson, saw the monopoly British Airways had in the domestic market.

Little Red ended up being a failure and at one point had the worst load figures in the aviation world. This led Little Red to become a complete and total lossmaker. With less than 40% load on flights, it was only time until Little Red was shut down. After two years of operating losses, Virgin Atlantic finally shut Little Red down.

Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red ended up as a major disaster. Photo: Wikipedia/ Aero Icarus

Virgin Atlantic, however, still had their eye on the UK domestic market. After all, British Airways’ monopoly gave them an upper leg on connecting passengers to and from the UK. There was, however, Flybe.

When Flybe went up for sale, Virgin Atlantic jumped on the opportunity and set up a consortium to purchase the airline. The purchase was closed on Thursday, February 21st. Now, Virgin Atlantic looks to make Flybe a tremendous asset.

Flybe’s extensive regional route networks out of Manchester and London will pair well with Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul operations. Photo created at Great Circle Mapper

Flybe has been marked by a difficult few years after an aggressive expansion plan that ended in losses almost up to £20 million.

By the end of 2018, Flybe had put itself up for sale. Virgin Atlantic was one of the first parties that took a major interest in Flybe.

Flybe did see some additional bids coming from British Airways and Andrew Tinkler (Flybe’s second-largest shareholder) backed Mesa Air. Andrew Tinkler was formerly an executive at Stobart Air, which was one of the parties in the Connect Airways consortium that bid for Flybe. He was removed from his position in 2017 and initiated some difficult legal proceedings which he lost.

Ultimately, Virgin Atlantic’s Connect Airways consortium won out and it looks like they will have Flybe’s connecting network to themselves.

This is a major step forward as Virgin Atlantic seeks to gain a greater share of Britain’s market. British Airways is currently a huge player with regional connections in the UK and now it looks like Virgin Atlantic is becoming a force to reckon with.

We’ll keep you updated in case of any drastic turn of events. However, we’re hopeful that Flybe can keep flying and this deal stays intact.

What are your thoughts? Are you sad to see Flybe go? Let us know in the comments below!

4 comments
  1. I will be sad to see flybe though. However I’d rather it survived and grow and I feel this will give it the resources it needs. Flybe has gone from strength to strength but it’s management changed and things went bad. I will always see it as flybe though.

  2. Sad to see Flybe be rebrabded. I feel its a big mistake, despite being more interlined with the Virgin Atlantic operation. Having a separate brand enables them to continue to work with different partners not wholly associated with being competitors to Virgin. It would also allow a clearer service level differentiation and retain the well known brand it had built up over 40 years in the regional airline market.

  3. Can’t wait. Airline was ok but their ground handling and odd baggage policies which meant staff carried credit card machines around at boarding just waiting to catch out a passenger ruined the experience. Also their aircraft don’t allow Bluetooth headphones as well as many other oddities. Virgin will focus on the passenger and give them a boost

  4. I don’t know why Little Red failed, but I haven’t been able to fly Virgin because I didn’t need a flight to London. Without a European division, I can’t continue to my final destination. Hopefully they make it work the second time around.

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