LONDON – More than 200 Flybe leaders and representatives have got together this week to unveil the brand new name for the airline.

Dubbed Virgin Connect, this brand will operate under the consortium Connect Airways, in which Cyrus Capital Partners own 40% of the brand, Virgin Atlantic with 30% and Stobart Group also owning 30%.

It is understood that the re-brand of the airline from Flybe into Virgin Connect colours is scheduled to be completed next year.

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.

It will be the case that flights booked under the Flybe name will be transferred to Virgin Connect next year, depending on when the traveller has booked their travel.

Commenting on the news was Connect Airways CEO Mark Anderson who expressed a lot of excitement over Flybe’s next stages into the aviation world.

“We are hugely excited by this milestone in our airline’s 40-year history. We will remain true to our heritage and reason for being, which is offering essential regional connectivity to local communities.”

“At its heart, Virgin Connect will be passionately focused on becoming Europe’s most loved and successful regional airline.  It will offer travel that is simple and convenient with a personal touch.”

Flybe will turn from Purple and Orange into the red with the Virgin Connect move.

Anderson also reaffirmed to existing and potentially returning travellers of the carrier about changes to the services they will receive.

“Our customers will naturally expect the same exceptional travel experience as they do with other Virgin-related brands.  Whatever their reason for flying, we want our customers to feel loved and know we will always put their needs first in every decision we take.

“As part of the Virgin family, we now have a tremendously re-energised team. From here on in, we invite our customers, partners and the communities we serve to join us on every step of this exciting journey!”, he added.

Fleet Renewal Rather Than Fleet Withdrawal?

We know currently that at the time of writing, Flybe has around 76 aircraft, consisting of 54 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, 11 Embraer ERJ-170s, four ERJ-190s as well as seven ATR42/72 aircraft.

We have seen fleet reductions in the past. Flybe did push itself in the direction of becoming an all-Dash 8 operator, with around 10 E190 aircraft being returned to lessors over the last few years.

It could very well be the case that this strategy will continue under the Connect Airways Consortium, with Virgin Connect aiming at keeping costs streamlined by operating just one particular variant of aircraft.

Then again, because of the financial backing that would come under the likes of Virgin Holdings, it could produce an element of strategy reversal and implement some slightly larger aircraft to go to destinations further afield.

Is Virgin Connect Part of the Heathrow Post-Expansion Strategy?

Evidence that could substantiate this view would be Virgin’s previous announcement made back last month where it would be wanting to plan 84 new routes by 2026, in time for when the Heathrow Third Runway is completed.

As seen pictured above, details of such routes in Europe and the domestic British market could easily see Flybe’s current fleet operating on these routes.

Some UK and European flights would more than likely be a part of Flybe’s already existing route network but there are a substantial number of routes on there which would represent a huge expansion in Virgin’s route-book.

As mentioned last month by Airways, if slot preference is handed out more equally, especially after the third runway has been built, then Virgin’s global route network could rise by a staggering 400%.

With the Virgin Connect name now being officially announced, it will certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons to opponents British Airways under the International Airlines Group brand.

It would also put pressure on the BA Cityflyer wing of the airline due to the number of frequencies it offers around the UK and beyond.

According to UK newspaper The Guardian, Virgin said that it would offer more choice and lower fares for those flying out of London’s largest airport.

It backs the lower fare argument by stating that one in four passengers can only fly with IAG and would pay around 10% more in fares as a result.

Only time will tell whether this will pay off, and we may not even know until the second half of the next decade, especially with the Heathrow Expansion looking to be a significant part to Virgin’s plan for growth and success.