LONDON – UK regional carrier Flybe has this week unveiled its operations for the Christmas period.

Around 4,169 flights across the airline’s 99 routes will occur between this Friday and January 2, 2020.

The airline noted that December 20 and 23 will be the busiest days, especially due to the fact loved ones will be heading home for the Christmas break.

The top five busiest airports for the carrier will be Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast City, Southampton and Edinburgh, with the busiest routes expected to be Birmingham and Manchester to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The airline also said that the top five routes for the whole Christmas period will be:

  • Amsterdam-Birmingham
  • Edinburgh-London Heathrow
  • Belfast City-Manchester
  • Belfast City-Birmingham
  • Edinburgh-Southampton

In a statement, the carrier thanked its consumers for using them over the festive period.

“The entire Flybe team would like to thank all its customers for choosing to fly with it this year and looks forward to welcoming everyone on board again in the New Year. 2020 will be an exciting and momentous one for the airline as it re-brands as Virgin Connect, becoming part of the wider Virgin family.”

Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 G-JEDP seen departing runway 15 at Birmingham (EGBB, BHX). Picture: Thomas Saunders.

Southampton Airport, in particular, has been the airport experiencing the most growth, with 54 additional flights to be serviced by the carrier over the period to meet such Christmas demand.

Through codesharing arrangements, Flybe is expected to handle more passengers for those coming from overseas and beyond Europe.

A Year in Review for Flybe…

It has been quite a year for Flybe, having ended the previous year in financial doubt.

The first news for 2019 came in January when it was revealed that Virgin Atlantic would purchase the carrier alongside the Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital for £2.2 million, with a £20 million bridge long facility which would support the operations of the carrier.

By February, this deal was finalised, with Connect Airways, a consortium of Virgin and Stobart holding 60% between the two carriers, and Cyrus holding 40%.

With this news, Flybe decided to open up some more air links, being Heathrow-Isle of Man which commenced in April 2019 as well as continued services between Heathrow and Guernsey throughout the 2019/20 winter schedule.

Then in May, it was announced that the CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener would step down, having done so in the following July, being replaced by Mark Anderson, who would run the entire Connect consortium.

September came along and more route expansions were announced, particularly from Southampton Airport, where an extra 18 flights per week would be operated, with services to Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle increasing.

The big news came around two months in October, in which the Virgin branding news had come to a more interesting reality through the naming of Virgin Connect, in which the carrier will become in 2020.

Websites have already been launched for this brand, with there being some details about route launches and for any flight bookings.

Connect Airways have mentioned to travellers that flights can still be booked under the Flybe name until the brand is changed.

The final lot of route momentum came at the end of October when Flybe announced increased winter capacity out of Edinburgh Airport by adding an extra Embraer E190 aircraft at the Scottish hub.

Through this, the winter season at the airport would increase to 208 flights per week.

It remains clear that two common themes have emerged out of Flybe as its year of operations come to an end. Salvation and Capitalisation.

From what was seen as dire straits throughout the course of this year and last, the UK’s largest regional carrier has been saved at a time where aviation volatility has struck so significantly.

Capitalisation has been seen when other airlines place belief in a business model that is vital to the UK in terms of air links but also further afield expansion as we enter into 2020.

As we begin to see Flybe morph into Virgin Connect, only time will tell what sort of plans the Virgin group will have for this airline.