Flybe returns but not based in Exeter

Collapsed Exeter-based airline Flybe is returning to the skies, but its comeback will see its new head office relocated to Birmingham Airport.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

In March 2020, the airline – which had its base at Exeter Airport and also operated flights from Cornwall Airport Newquay – went into administration with all flights grounded as a result.

Disruption to the aviation and travel industry brought on by the coronavirus pandemic were partly blamed for the firm’s collapse.

Its brand, intellectual property, stock and equipment was bought last year for a nominal fee from administrators by global private equity firm Cyrus Capital which was a shareholder in the old business.

Last November, Devon County Council bought the former Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport for £4m to transform it into the Future Skills Centre which is being leased by Exeter College.

The 2021 version of Flybe has now announced it is to have a head office and operations centre at Diamond House next to the airport in Solihull.

It is one of the first new UK airlines to be certified by the Civil Aviation Authority since Brexit and said it planned to serve key regions across the UK and EU, with services launching in early 2022.

It expects to create 200 new jobs to be based at Birmingham Airport with a further 400 elsewhere in the country over the next three years.

The new carrier recently installed airline turnaround specialist David Pflieger as its new chief executive who brings experience from senior roles with airlines such as Fiji Airways and Delta.

Mr Pflieger said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Birmingham Airport, the city of Birmingham and the Mayor of West Midlands to make Birmingham Airport the location of our new headquarters and first crew base.

“It was an ideal choice for us due to its great people and highly skilled workforce, its central UK location and the fact that airport is a global travel hub where local and connecting customers have access to over 150 worldwide destinations.

“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of over 12 months of dedicated hard work by all involved and it would not have been possible without the support of the CAA and the UK Government.

“We plan to provide more information in the coming weeks and months about ticket prices, new routes and destinations and other important news. This is an incredibly exciting time for us and we look forward to sharing more updates in the future.”

Prior to its collapse, Flybe was Europe’s largest regional carrier and flew around eight million passengers a year and employed 2,500 staff.

It was owned by Cyrus Capital alongside Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group.

Birmingham Airport’s chief executive Nick Barton added: “This is fantastic news for our region’s connectivity needs and it will bring with it some great new employment opportunities.

“Dave’s vast experience in managing start-up airlines and turnaround situations, coupled with the recovery of the Midlands’ economy post-covid, means that Flybe’s return to the skies from Birmingham is a shot in the arm for our airport as well as West Midlands businesses and communities.

“We look forward to working with Dave and his team in preparation for next spring and to launch such a well-known brand here in Birmingham.”

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