As concern over the current coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate around the world, Exeter-based airline Flybe has gone into administration on Thursday 5 March. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on demand for travel has been partly to blame.

A statement on Flybe’s website reads: “All flights have been grounded and the UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect… If you are due to fly with Flybe, please  do not travel to the airport unless you have arranged an alternative flight with another airline. Please note that Flybe is unfortunately not able to arrange alternative flights for passengers.”

The struggling carrier narrowly avoided going bust in January after a rescue package was announced by the UK government. But the airline came under fire from competitors who felt that the so called “tax holiday” – which involved deferring Flybe’s Air Passenger Duty (APD) bill – was unfair. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary accused the UK government of covering up the true terms of the deal to rescue Flybe and threatened to launch legal action at home and in Brussels over what he claims is illegal state aid.

The collapse of Flybe will have a significant impact on airports across the UK, many of which had Flybe as their main or sole carrier. The airline served destinations from the Channel Islands to Aberdeen. For airports such as Exeter, Belfast City and Newquay it was one of a handful of airline choices and at Southampton it accounted for around 95% of the activity.

“We are extremely disappointed at this news and our first thoughts go to the Flybe employees and passengers affected” said Brian Ambrose, CEO of Belfast City Airport commenting on the news this morning.

“From Belfast City Airport, Flybe had operated a strong and profitable base of 14 routes to key regional destinations across the UK. The airline was a significant economic driver for the region, carrying 1.6 million passengers to and from Belfast in 2019,” he added.

“I am confident that these well-established routes, coupled with our city centre location and recent £15m investment in terminal facilities, will prove an attractive option to airlines. Negotiations with a number of carriers are already underway.”

Meanwhile Birmingham Airport issued a statement saying: “A number of routes operated by Flybe are served by other carriers from Birmingham, and we already have arrangements for two airlines to replace five of its routes in the next few weeks. We will continue to engage with other airlines to replace the remaining capacity for our region and customers.” 

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