LONDON – With recently-bankrupt airline Flybe (BE) set for a 2021 return, there are evidently some questions around its viability, especially in a COVID world.
Obviously, COVID-19 was not the final kick in the coffin for the airline that went into administration back in March this year. As mentioned in my previous analytical post, the demise of BE opened up the question of what will be next for the UK regional market.
Even then, it appears that with the return of the carrier, this could bring back some level of success.
International Portfolio Offering Chances of Restoration?
Over the weekend, anna.aero, alongside RDC Aviation released information relating to BE’s previous success on the international market from last year. RDC data shows that BE had around 15 international routes generating a profit of £16m in 2019, of which 11 of those 15 are still unserved.
The most popular route was Manchester (MAN) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) which handled 212,801 passengers representing a strong 16.82% profit margin. CDG came into the spotlight again for second place with services from Birmingham International (BHX), handling 156,347 passengers from a 19.13% margin.
Other successful destinations featured Amsterdam (AMS), Bergerac (EGC), Faro (FAO), Milan Malpensa (MXP), Alicante (ALC), Verona (VRN) and Dublin (DUB), but the difference here is that regional airports were responsible for such success on these routes.
The Importance of Regional Airports
Of those destinations in the previous paragraph, Southampton Airport (SOU) had particular importance of ensuring such success in the BE network.
Out of the 109 total international routes BE had in 2019, 24 came from Southampton alone, and out of the 11 most profitable routes in the network, eight came from SOU. One vital regional link to EGC from SOU generated over £1.12m in profit for 2019 from over 40,000 tickets sold.
This obviously shows that before the COVID pandemic and the airline’s demise kicked in, that the demand is quite clearly there for the routes to be serviced again.
COVID-19 and BREXIT
Now, whilst there was significant demand across regional airports in the United Kingdom, it also begs the question of the two outliers in this argument. COVID-19 and the ongoing BREXIT talks.
The COVID-19, on top of an array of other issues including BREXIT caused the downfall of the carrier. Obviously, the first question asked will be: “Will these two issues sink the carrier again? If so, how?” For the pandemic, there is obviously the sharp decrease in demand as people stopped traveling due to government restrictions, thus bringing consumer confidence down.
As for BREXIT, this has resulted in the devaluation of the Great British Pound, which meant BE were not able to trade as beneficially as it would have liked, especially with the airline at the time aiming to transition to an all De Havilland Dash 8 fleet.
What aircraft will be used?
Ultimately, this is also something unclear at the moment, especially with the airline having to sell its aircraft or return them to lessors in the wake of such insolvency proceedings. The Dash 8-400s it had initially could be the aircraft of choice again, especially flying into airports with shorter runway lengths such as SOU or Exeter (EXT) etc.
Such an answer to this question depends on how big Thyme Coco, a subsidiary of Cyrus Capital, wants the airline to become.
Taking a strategy similar to the likes of Virgin Atlantic Little Red with Airbus A320s may work, but it also depends on how many passengers it can acquire on each flight. This will continue to be a difficult thing to determine until the airline makes such announcements in due course.
Overall, it is very good news that BE will be returning to the UK market next year, especially as the aviation industry in the country needs as much support as possible to display the level of confidence needed to get passengers flying during a global pandemic.
It will be interesting to determine what destinations the new airline will launch from, and whether there will be as much of a regional focus as there was last year.
In the meantime, all we can do is sit and wait for further announcements and hope that one of the greats in the regional market makes its resurrection, as planned.
Featured Image: Flybe Dash 8-400. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons