Collapsed airline Flybe is seeking to revive its old network in a “new and much improved” form this summer after an investment fund completed a rescue deal.
The airline, founded in 1979 as Jersey European Airways, fell apart as covid took hold in March 2020, following a year of financial turbulence.
There were fears that the once-crucial Channel Islands flight provider would never take to the skies again, but administrators EY raised hopes yesterday when they confirmed that the business, some jobs, and assets – excluding aircraft but including its take-off and landing slots - had been sold to Thyme Opco.
Thyme Opco, which has now changed its name to Flybe Limited, was backed by Cyrus Capital, the hedge fund that together with Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group bought Flybe in 2019 but was unable to save the airline from collapse.
A Flybe Limited spokesperson said the buy-out completion “represents a critical first step in our mission to accomplish the first-ever rescue of an insolvent British airline.”
Pictured: Flybe Limited said it plans to fly "many" of its former routes.
They continued: “Subject to further success with vaccinations and relaxation of travel restrictions, we plan to launch a new and much improved Flybe sometime this summer on many of our former routes where there remains a critical need for a strong, reliable, and customer-focused airline.
“While our company will initially be smaller than before, we intend to grow, create valuable jobs, and make significant contributions to essential regional connectivity in the UK and EU.”
One of four administrators, EY restructuring partner Simon Edel, said: “Completion of the sale of Flybe is positive news for local communities previously served by Flybe.
“The launch of a new Flybe will enhance regional connectivity across the UK and create new job opportunities within the airline industry. Flybe stands to make an important contribution to local economies as they rebuild after the pandemic and as restrictions ease to allow an increase in air travel.”
Flybe is still facing a barrier to its planned summer take-off, however, with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority having revoked its operating licence due to the company being in administration.
The company is currently appealing for a reversal of this decision to UK Transport Secretary Grant Schapps. During an appeal process, an operating licence remains valid.
While the sale does not include aircraft, which were mortgaged to lenders, Flybe Limited does have one plane on its books: a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400, which was registered earlier this year.
While Flybe has said it plans to fly "many" of its former routes, it's unclear if this will include Guernsey and Jersey. In the wake of its collapse, Blue Islands - with which Flybe previously held a franchise agreement - struck a £10m deal with Jersey's Government to maintain the island's connectivity and took on some of Flybe's most popular routes. Aurigny, meanwhile, took on the Birmingham route.
Pictured: Blue Islands provided lifeline flights to Southampton and Gatwick.
Former British Airways Executive Keith Hatton, who was accused of setting up a special unit to discredit Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin airline 30 years ago, has been named Chair of the new Flybe, according to the Times.
He was previously appointed a Director of Thyme Opco.
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