Belfast Telegraph

Flybe says it is 'fully committed' to Belfast base as shares drop by 39%

By Christine Carrigan

Regional airline Flybe has said it's business as usual at George Best Belfast City Airport, despite the group's shares plummeting by 39% after profit warnings.

The regional airline, which flies to 15 UK destinations from Belfast, saw shares fall by as much as 39% after it warned over full-year profits following a £29m hit from rising fuel costs, easing demand and the weak pound.

The low-cost UK carrier said it is now expecting to report losses of around £12m for the year to the end of March 2019, even with a £10m one-off boost to its accounts.

The airline, which recently celebrated 35 years at Belfast City Airport, says it can fly up to 90 flights a day from Belfast, where it has eight aircraft and employs 200 people.

The latest warning comes just six months after the last profit warning from the group, which suffered amid the Beast From The East snow and freezing weather disruption earlier in the year.

As well as an expected £29m impact from fuel costs and a fall in the value of sterling, Flybe said it was also seeing consumer demand weaken in domestic and near-continent markets in recent weeks. The airline also cautioned that this is set to continue into its second half.

A spokesperson for Flybe at George Best Belfast City Airport said: "Belfast is one of Flybe's main bases and they are fully committed to operations at the airport."

The overall gloomy outlook comes despite a solid first half for Flybe.

It expects to hold interim underlying pre-tax profits largely firm against the £9.4m posted a year earlier, despite cost increases of around £17m.

It also said revival efforts had helped boost its load factor, a measure of how well it fills its planes, by 7.2% to a record 86.6% over the quarter to the end of September.

Passenger revenue per seat lifted 6.8% as it reduced its flight capacity by 10%.

Christine Ourmieres-Widener, chief executive of Flybe, said: "We have made progress in driving our unit revenues across the summer season, but we are now seeing a softening in the market.

"We are reviewing further capacity and cost-saving measures, while continuing to focus on delivering our sustainable business improvement plan."

Ms Ourmieres-Widener said the group would ramp up efforts to make savings in the face of rising costs. She said: "Stronger cost discipline is starting to have a positive impact across the business, but we aim to do more in the coming months, particularly against the headwinds of currency and fuel costs.

"We continue to strengthen the underlying business and remain confident that our strategy will improve performance."

The company's shares rocketed in February when the Stobart Group said it was considering a bid for the company.

Stobart and Flybe already work together and have a franchise arrangement between the two groups' airlines.

However, Stobart walked away from its bid in March after the two firms failed to agree terms.

Belfast Telegraph

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