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Future bleak for Belfast City Airport with Flybe on the brink of collapse


Regional carrier Flybe accounts for 80% of flights from Belfast City Airport

Regional carrier Flybe accounts for 80% of flights from Belfast City Airport

Regional carrier Flybe accounts for 80% of flights from Belfast City Airport

There were fears for the future of George Best Belfast City Airport last night after reports that the troubled Flybe airline was on the point of collapse.

The BBC reported that 2,000 jobs are at risk after a fresh bid for financial support failed.

The budget airline has also been hit by the impact of coronavirus, with a slump in bookings since the outbreak started.

Flybe accounts for 80% of routes out of Belfast City Airport, with reports last night suggesting the airline could collapse "within hours".

One Flybe source told the BBC that "the game is up".

Any announcement was not expected until the last plane landed last night at around 11pm.

Other reports suggested that accountancy firm EY was sending staff to UK regional airports yesterday just ahead of the company falling into administration.

The struggling airline was saved from collapse earlier this year but has been unable to obtain the finance from the Government.

Final flights were expected to touch down across the UK late on Wednesday night, with Flybe's 8.55pm departure from Belfast City Airport from Glasgow cancelled.

A flight from Manchester was also cancelled.

Co Down BBC presenter Holly Hamilton tweeted that her flight to Belfast was about to take off from Manchester when it turned back on the runway.

In a series of tweets, the Getaways presenter said: "About to take off... wondering if it'll be one of the last. Hope not. Sad day."

A few minutes later, she added: "So I spoke too soon. Plane turned back while taxiing. Looks like we're not going anywhere. Pilot describing it as an 'admin issue'."

Then she added: "As one of my fellow passengers says, 'we were so close'.

"Everyone in agreement here though... we've been inconvenienced but the staff here have potentially lost their jobs. No one is complaining."

Confused staff at the airport did not know if the airline had gone into administration last night, with some saying they were relying on Twitter for any information.

Flybe flies to 14 UK destinations from Belfast City. Its collapse would leave Belfast City flying to just four other destinations.

Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart said the collapse of Flybe would be "a huge blow to Belfast City Airport and will have a major impact on the Northern Ireland economy with reduced connectivity to UK and Europe".

He added that his "immediate thoughts are with all staff at this uncertain time, many of whom remain totally uninformed about what is happening".

East Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton also expressed his concerns about the budget airline.

"The lack of clarity is worrying for Northern Ireland business, our economy, the travelling public and Northern Ireland's tourism.

"Potentially this is a bad blow for my constituents given the crucial role the George Best Belfast City Airport plays in the economy of east Belfast.

"Directness and accuracy from Flybe is urgently needed as unsettling and damaging rumours gather momentum."

Flybe blamed flight disruption to flights at Glasgow Airport on a "miscommunication" over refuelling of two services to Birmingham.

A spokeswoman said: "Flybe can confirm that, following a miscommunication regarding re-fuelling this evening, two flights were delayed and that due to the crew now being out of hours, have been cancelled. Normal operations have now resumed.

"We sincerely apologise to those passengers inconvenienced by the disruption to their travel plans."

A Belfast City Airport spokesperson yesterday directed all queries to Flybe. However, a Flybe spokesman would not comment on its financial situation.

Belfast Telegraph