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Flybe collapse: Loganair takes over Belfast routes to Aberdeen and Inverness


Scottish airline Loganair is taking on two former Flybe routes from Belfast City Airport to Aberdeen and Inverness, it has been announced.

The airline announced plans to take up 16 routes across the UK in a move that will add 400 new flights each week.

A special recruitment line for former Flybe employees has also been opened for up to 100 employees hoping to work with Loganair.

Loganair has said the new routes, from existing Loganair base airports at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Newcastle, will be launched over the next six months, with some starting as early as March 16 and some of which are already on sale.

It's after Belfast City Airport's chief executive said a number of airlines are interested in taking over the routes served by regional carrier Flybe, which collapsed into administration.

Loganair took over a route from Londonderry to London Stansted in February 2019 after Flybmi collapsed. They also operate a route to Glasgow from the city.

The airline suspended flights between the city and Manchester less than six months after introduction due to a drop-off in bookings.

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, accounts for 80% of routes out of the airport, with 14 UK destinations. Its collapse left the airport serving just four other destinations.

Have you been affected by the collapse of Flybe? Contact us digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

The airline announced in the early hours of Thursday it had ceased trading with immediate effect and that administrators had been appointed. Crisis talks were held throughout Wednesday to try to secure a rescue package, but no deal was agreed.

Belfast City Airport chief executive Brian Ambrose said it was "a difficult day" for staff.

"We were talking to a number of staff last night after they came off shift and they said they're going home to let their families know they've lost their jobs - so for the Flybe staff who are wonderful people and for the customers who rely on the service, it's a difficult time," he said.

"What I want to relay is that we're confident we will rebuild that network, two-thirds of a passengers are dependent on Flybe, they've been in difficulty for a while and we've been working to try and support them but in parallel, we've been looking at alternatives."

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: "The collapse of a long-standing airline like Flybe marks a desperately sad day, especially for the airline’s dedicated team of employees and for customers facing disruption to their journeys.

"By stepping in quickly with a comprehensive plan, Loganair is aiming to maintain essential air connectivity within the UK regions to keep customers flying, and to offer new employment to former Flybe staff members who are facing an uncertain future today."

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The flight departure boards showing cancelled flights at Belfast Airport as Flybe, Europe's biggest regional airline, has collapsed into administration. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2020. See PA story AIR FlyBe. Photo credit should read: David Young/PA Wire

The flight departure boards showing cancelled flights at Belfast Airport as Flybe, Europe's biggest regional airline, has collapsed into administration. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2020. See PA story AIR FlyBe. Photo credit should read: David Young/PA Wire

PA

The flight departure boards showing cancelled flights at Belfast Airport as Flybe, Europe's biggest regional airline, has collapsed into administration. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 5, 2020. See PA story AIR FlyBe. Photo credit should read: David Young/PA Wire

He said the move to take on the routes is the outcome of several weeks of planning. Mr Hinkles advised customers with a Flybe booking including onward travel with airlines including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air France, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines to contact their travel agent to rebook with Loganair.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Mr Ambrose said: "In the last 24 hours we've had interest in all of our route network, for some of the larger routes we've had interest from multiple airlines so I'm confident within the next days and weeks we'll be announcing backfill on a number of those routes. It's just a matter of how quickly airlines can get aircraft available," he said.

Belfast City Airport has been through this process before, he said.

We're confident we'll build the business back to where it was Brian Ambrose

"When BMI failed they were 40% of our business so this is significant but any business works if there's a demand for their product. The feedback we've been getting since we made the investment in the last 18 months from our customers is that they absolutely love the product we have here. The airlines [...] they believe there's a market here to be served.

"We're confident we'll build the business back to where it was at about two and a half million passengers but we see prospects beyond that."

The Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she deeply regretted the collapse of the airline.

"In January, the UK Government announced that it had reached an agreement with the shareholders of Flybe, who had agreed to put more money into the business, on the basis that there will be reviews into both Air Passenger Duty and Regional Air Connectivity," she said.

Almost the entire population of NI travel through Flybe routes at Belfast City Airport Gavin Robinson MP

"These are being led by the Treasury and the Department for Transport (DfT) respectively. I am deeply disappointed that this agreement has not been able to secure the survival of the company," she said.

She said her department will be working closely with the Department for Transport in London to assist with the repatriation of Northern Ireland passengers.

The East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said the public demand is there for flights from Belfast.

"Almost the entire population of NI travel through Flybe routes at Belfast City Airport on an annual basis so there is an attractiveness to other airlines," he said.

"The government has been engaged in a regional connectivity strategy and I'll be saying very clearly in Parliament today that this is a huge test for government, they can't sit back on air passenger duty and regional connectivity and have issues like this arise with Flybe and do nothing."

Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald said it was a sad and difficult time for workers and a "huge blow" to the economy.

"My thoughts are with Flybe workers and their families today who will be left devastated and plunged into uncertainty about what the future holds for them," she said.

Ulster Unionist MLA for East Belfast Andy Allen said it was important the Executive stepped in.

"Now that devolution has been restored, it's important that local departments work together to do everything possible to support those workers who have lost their jobs," he said.

"On top of uncertainty over Boris Johnson’s Irish Sea Border we need to send a strong signal to the airline industry of the importance of the UK internal market - now is the time for the Chancellor to scrap Air Passenger Duty."

John Stewart MLA, Ulster Unionist Economy spokesperson, called on the Westminster government to preserve as many routes as possible, especially those travelling to London airports.

The Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said he would work with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to help restore the "key routes".

All Flybe flights and those operated by sister airline Stobart Air have been cancelled, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. Flybe was bought by a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital in February 2019, after running into earlier financial problems.

In a statement, Flybe chief executive Mark Anderson said the company had made “every possible attempt” to avoid collapse but had been “unable to overcome significant funding challenges”.

“The UK has lost one of its greatest regional assets,” Mr Anderson said.

“Flybe has been a key part of the UK aviation industry for four decades, connecting regional communities, people and businesses across the entire nation.

“I thank all our partners and the communities we have been privileged to serve. Above all I would like to thank the Flybe team for their incredible commitment and dedication.”

This is a very clear reason why Air Passenger Duty needs to be scrapped immediately. Colin Neill

Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said the collapse will have a "hugely negative" impact on Northern Ireland’s air connectivity.

The company said all Flybe flights were immediately grounded and advised all passengers not to travel to airports unless alternative flight arrangements had been made.

"I know that the team at Belfast City Airport will work hard to find new airlines for these key routes and Belfast Chamber urges Government at all levels to support them to ensure that our connectivity, which is so important to business and especially tourism in our city, isn’t harmed by the unfortunate collapse of FlyBe," he said.

Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill said there will be a knock-on effect for tourism.

"This sounds alarm for our pubs, restaurants and hotels at a time when Coronavirus is compounding the sector’s problems," he said.

"Great Britain is our largest tourism market and without that regional connectivity, the hospitality sector is going to take a real hammering. Our only hope in the short term is that other carriers can increase capacity so that visitors can come here and not be put off by Flybe’s collapse.

"This is a very clear reason why Air Passenger Duty needs to be scrapped immediately and we call on the Chancellor to wake up to this grave situation and cancel APD in his Budget only a week away."

Belfast Telegraph


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