Flybe ‘fundamentally sound’ despite being up for sale

Pilots believe Flybe is “fundamentally sound” despite the airline being put up for sale.

However, the British Airline Pilots Association wants to be consulted over future plans for the carrier.

In a message to potential bidders, the union’s general secretary Brian Strutton said: “Flybe is the largest regional airline in Europe with 2,300 talented, committed employees in the UK who will be very worried to hear this morning that their company is up for sale.

“Despite warnings this will still be a bolt out of the blue.

“Balpa believes that Flybe is fundamentally a sound airline and we will scrutinise any offers to buy Flybe very carefully to ensure continued employment is protected.”

A deal to acquire Flybe by Southend airport and Stobart Air owner Stobart Group fell through earlier this year.

Flybe’s pre-tax profits for the six months to September 30 fell by 54% to £7.4 million, on revenues down by 2.4% to £419.2 million.

Speculation about possible suitors for Flybe focused on Stobart Group and easyJet.

Adam Ewart, founder and chief executive of door-to-door luggage delivery service Send My Bag, commented on Flybe’s plight.

He said: “The low-cost airlines have won year after year due to an ever-increasing number of flights being taken, but while the ‘stack em high, sell em cheap’ model works in the boom times, it is not an industry which is terribly flexible. It requires significant capital investment, is highly competitive and is particularly susceptible to fluctuations in fuel prices, currency exchange rates and consumer habits.

“In this case, Flybe has succumbed to all three, with demand low and oil prices high. In terms of fuel, the airline has also been hit twice: the cost of fuel itself has risen and as fuel is traded in US dollars, the net GBP cost has soared.

“In a volatile industry, products and services which have little to no cost extra cost to the carrier are a lifeline.

“For example, ‘added extras’ such as speedy boarding or seat assignment operates at a 100% margin, with the revenue going straight to the bottom line.

“It is therefore no surprise that while others are collapsing, Ryanair – which is obsessed with ancillary revenue – is the airline announcing profits are up.”