Regional airline Flybe has become the first airline casualty of the coronavirus outbreak following a plunge in travel demand.
The struggling airline, which had been the subject of government rescue deal in January, connects regional airports within the United Kingdom with major European destinations. The company has been put into administration putting around 2,400 jobs at risk. The collapse of the airline is also likely have knock on effects on regional airports and restricting the connectivity of businesses in Wales and Scotland and counties such as Devon and Cornwall.
“All flights grounded”
A statement from Flybe read: “All flights have been grounded and the UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect.”
The closure happened after the government walked away from a rescue package agreed in January.
The airline’s collapse also causes a problem for Prime Minister Boris Johnson who had promised to “level up” Britain by investing in regional transport links.
Airline flew 8m passengers a year
Flybe, described as the largest independent regional airline in Europe, carried around 8 million passengers a year between 81 airports and was owned by a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital.
Flybe is the first major airline to go out of business since the emergence of coronavirus, last year which has so far claimed around 3,000 lives. A number of airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Lufthansa and United Airlines have announced cost cutting measures with many cancelling flights to survive a drop in demand which has worsened since late February when northern Italy became the centre of Europe’s biggest virus outbreak.
Government working to reduce disruption to Flybe’s routes
In January, FINN reported that shareholders had agreed to invest more money into the struggling airline, alongside government support. Details of the support were not revealed but were believed to include potential loan and a review of local flight taxes.
Johnson also stated the carrier’s importance to national transport links. A spokesman for the government said it was working closely with the industry to reduce any disruption its routes.
A statement by the government read: “Flybe’s financial difficulties were longstanding and well documented and pre-date the outbreak of COVID-19.”
The government had already announced plans to rejuvenate opportunities within the regions, however areas such as Exeter, Birmingham and Southampton will be left with poorer connectivity to the rest of the UK and beyond without Flybe.