MIAMI – Today in aviation, British European Airways rebranded itself as low-cost carrier Flybe in 2002 to become Europe’s largest independent regional airline.

The airline can trace its history back to 1979 when Intra Airways and Express Air Services merged to form Jersey European Airways. 

The airline went on to develop an extensive network across the UK and Europe offering full-service scheduled flights. It was then rebranded as British European Airways in June 2000.

Jersey European became British European in June 2000 to better reflect the carriers growing operation away from the Channel Island. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Low-Cost Rivals


But with the rise of low-cost carriers, management decided to rebrand in order to keep up with its emerging rivals. The new name and look formed part of a £10m marketing campaign in an attempt to give the struggling airline a wider appeal. 

Speaking at the time, Jim French, the airline’s CEO said, “This new brand will bring us wider appeal, especially among the younger generation who have bought into the aggressive marketing and brand positioning of the low-cost carriers. These consumers have grown up with high-profile, price-driven retail marketing.”

Flybe was once the world’s largest operator of the Dash-8 Q400 and had 54 of the type in its fleet at the time of its collapse. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

E195 Launch Customer


In 2005 Flybe became the launch customer for the Embraer E195 after placing an order for 26 of the type. Then in 2006 it took over British Airways ailing low-cost regional arm BA Connect. This acquisition made Flybe the largest European regional airline overnight. 

The airline struggled financially for a number of years. On January 11, 2019 a takeover by Connect Airways was confirmed with the airline look set to rebrand as Virgin Connect. 

Sadly, Virgin Connect never took off. On March 5, 2020 Flybe ceased all operations ending 41 years of operations. 

Flybe was the launch customer for the Embraer E195 and put the type in to service on September 22, 2006. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Featured image: Flybe G-FBJA Embraer E175. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways