Flybe could restart operations as soon as 2021 after a former shareholder stepped in to buy the regional carrier’s remaining assets.

Flybe folded in March following a collapse in demand for air travel, exacerbated by the carrier’s previous financial difficulties. The airline had lost £80 million in the three years before it was bought in February 2019 by a consortium including Cyrus, Stobart Group and Virgin. The consortium paid £2.2 million to rescue the loss-making airline and had pledged to invest millions of pounds into it. The regional airline went into administration this March, but it is now being bought out by Thyme Opco Ltd

The airline’s remaining assets, which do not include its 76-strong fleet, was bought out of administration by a firm affiliated to a former shareholder. New owner Thyme Opco has revealed few details but says it plans to run a smaller operation of the Flybe brand which will “start off smaller than before”.

Airline collapse led to loss of more than 2,000 jobs

The Exeter-based regional airline carried eight million passengers a year and ran 40 per cent of the UK’s regional flights before its collapse in March. Flybe’s collapse led to a loss of more than 2,000 jobs.

The deal was struck after hedge fund Cyrus Capital entered talks with the regional airline’s administrators. Administrators EY agreed to a sale of Flybe’s business and assets, which include the brand, intellectual property, stock and equipment to Thyme Opco for an undisclosed sum. Cyrus has offices in New York and London and describes itself as “an active investor that is deep value-focused with skill sets including bankruptcy and restructuring”.

Deal could allow Flybe to restart operations “in early 2021

A statement by EY said: “While the transaction is still subject to certain confidential conditions, the deal is expected to allow the Flybe business to restart operations as a regional airline in the UK under the Flybe brand in early 2021.

“Following today’s announcement, the administrators will work together with Thyme Opco, the Flybe management team and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to prepare for the relaunch of Flybe’s airline operations.”

The deal includes none of Flybe’s 76 strong fleet which its previous owners mortgaged off to lenders. The are also a number of regulatory hurdles which will need to be addressed before the Flybe brand can take to the skies again. The airline’s licence was revoked by the CAA when the company went into administration.

Deal will require CAA clearance

The deal will require the clearance of the Civil Aviation Authority over whether Cyrus is a fit and proper operator which may require legal hearings.

Rights to Flybe’s former take-off and landing slots at major airports including Heathrow and Manchester are also understood to be part of a legal wrangle, some of which have been temporarily passed to other airlines to maintain connectivity. Flybe’s rights to slots at Heathrow are thought to have reverted to the British Airways group IAG.

General secretary of the pilot’s union BALPA said: “I hope this signals the start of a relaunch of Flybe and I’ve written to all the parties involved to discuss this with them.”


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