The UK Regional and Business Airports (RABA) Group is both saddened and extremely concerned by the collapse of Flybe overnight. RABA Group’s Deputy Chair and Chief Executive of Cardiff Airport, Debra Bowen Rees, spoke on behalf of all when she expressed, “Our thoughts are with our many friends and colleagues at Flybe, as well as our customers who have had their travel plans disrupted.”
Several of our member airports have significant exposure to this failure, and while all of them will be looking to find replacement carriers to fly the former Flybe routes, we also recognise that in the current circumstances, with the Coronavirus impacting forward bookings, this will be difficult.
RABA Chair Neil Pakey noted, “Flybe's services provided vital transport connectivity for many regional, remote and peripheral regions in the form of efficient access to major cities and business centres across the UK and near Europe and to hub airports for onward travel to global destinations. Equivalent journeys by rail, road or ferry are frequently wholly inadequate for local businesses wishing to operate efficiently, friends and relatives wishing to meet or tourists wishing to visit. In other words, such routes can be viewed as essential economic and social services operating as critical regional infrastructure. If roads or railways of this significance were closed Government would act to ensure re-opening or continuity; we are encouraging the same sense of urgency for these essential regional assets.”
Now Flybe is lost, its network will not easily be replaced, and for some routes this may take years, rather than months, to do so. The impact on smaller regional airports, and the catchments and economies they serve, needs to be properly factored into the case for Government intervention. The CoVid19 impacts have created exceptional circumstances for regional aviation and we hope Government will consider stepping in with a package of support over the next six months. This should aim to allow airports to remain open, attract replacement carriers, and avoid significant layoffs. Importantly, it should also be used ensure minimum standards of connectivity, including acceptable levels of frequency, which is so important for business, are maintained or restored. RABA Group stands ready to engage with Government as a collective or individually through our affected Member Airports.
- IATA said on 3rd March that national governments should be helping airlines to get through the period of the Coronavirus outbreak - in the UK this certainly applies to Flybe, or now, after its demise, to route replacement efforts.
- Two-way Air Passenger Duty on domestic routes was a fundamental long-term cause of Flybe’s problems. We therefore call on the Government to suspend APD immediately on domestic routes, as a minimum for the period of the CoVid 19 outbreak, and that its long-term imposition is re-evaluated during the Regional Aviation review.
- Flybe's network was fundamental to the connectivity of UK business (but particularly SMEs), all over the four home nations and crown dependencies, because of the essential access it provided to suppliers and customers in the UK and near Europe, and via hubs to global markets, which post, Brexit are going to be ever more essential.
- Flybe employs approximately 2,500 staff and carried 8 million passengers last year. 40% of its flights were UK domestic. Economists advise that the job losses will also affect suppliers such as check-in and ground handling, but also ancillary businesses such as car hire, and tourism. Even more concerning are the slower acting catalytic effects of reduced regional connectivity, which theory suggests could amount to double these more visible and more immediate impacts.
- Levelling-up of the UK regions as a national policy priority will now become that much harder with this reduced regional connectivity.