Latest news, Flybe could be back next year after deal struck to restart airline

Flybe could be flying again next year, after administrators announced a deal had been struck with investors to restart the regional airline.

Gwyn Topham

The Exeter-based Flybe went bust in early March, with the impact of the coronavirus crisis on passenger demand proving the last straw for the struggling airline.

The administrators EY said Flybe’s brand and remaining assets had been sold to Thyme Opco, a company affiliated to Cyrus Capital, which had pumped money into the Virgin Atlantic-led rescue attempt in 2019.

The deal could mean Flybe restarting as a regional airline in the UK in early 2021. Administrators said they would work with the new owners and the UK Civil Aviation Authority to prepare for its return to the skies.

Simon Edel, a joint administrator, said it would be great news for communities around the UK who had relied on Flybe: “The restart of this iconic brand, which was once Europe’s largest regional airline, will provide a potentially significant boost to aviation jobs, regional connectivity and local economies.”

A Thyme Opco spokesperson added: “While we plan to start off smaller than before, we expect to create valuable airline industry jobs, restore essential regional connectivity in the UK and contribute to the recovery of a vital part of the country’s economy.”

The idea of relaunching an airline may raise eyebrows in a sector that has seen a huge downturn in traffic, with most carriers laying off about a third of staff and reporting enormous losses during the pandemic.

Flybe, which flew about 8 million passengers a year between 81 airports in the UK and Europe, had long struggled financially. It was promised fresh investment when a consortium of Virgin, Stobart Air and Cyrus Capital took over the airline in 2019. Virgin Atlantic had planned to rebrand the airline and integrate it as a feeder for its long-haul routes from Manchester and London.

However, by January the airline’s troubles were such that the new owners sought a government bailout, before the impact of Covid-19 took Flybe into administration in March.