Rival airlines move in for failed Flybe’s former routes and staff
AER Lingus regional operator Emerald Airlines is expected to take over at least one of the services at Belfast City Airport vacated by the collapse of Flybe on Saturday.
The Irish carrier, which could also take on some of the 276 Flybe staff made redundant on Saturday, is expected to prepare to announce flights to East Midlands Airport.
Flybe, which operated ten routes from Belfast, ceased trading less than ten months after returning to Northern Ireland under new ownership.
It was the second collapse of the airline in less than three years.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the latest failure of the regional service exposed the fragility of the north’s air links with Britain.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Monday, FSB chairman Alan Lowry called on Chris Heaton-Harris and the UK government to implement recommendations from a 2021 report by Sir Peter Hendy, stating that aviation subsidy rules should be reviewed and the rate of domestic aviation tax reduction.
“It is of great concern that none of these recommendations have yet been acted upon and that Northern Ireland is now being stripped of an important carrier which plays such a vital role in our day-to-day connectivity with the rest of the UK and beyond, ” said. Mr. Lowry.
Flybe’s latest collapse is not expected to cause anywhere near the devastation it caused in March 2020.
At the time, Flybe accounted for around 80 per cent of flights at Belfast City Airport.
While its new owners Thyme Opco had ambitions to reclaim anchor status at the airport, it was only responsible for about 14 percent of flights until the weekend collapse.
Of its ten routes from Belfast City, Flybe was competing with Aer Lingus Regional, British Airways and KLM for eighth.
But Alan Lowry of the FSB said the lack of competition on those routes raised “obvious concerns about monopoly provision”.
Only two airports are unserved from Belfast by Flybe’s collapse: East Midlands and Newcastle.
Aer Lingus franchisee Emerald Airlines is preparing to take on the East Midlands service, while the airport has pointed passengers traveling to the north-east of England to Loganair’s Teesside Airport route.
It is expected to take its total routes to 11 this summer.
Emerald is actively looking for flight attendants to staff its operations at Belfast City Airport,
Meanwhile, Ryanair and EasyJet have also urged the 276 former Flybe employees to apply to work for them.
Ryanair is currently on a recruitment drive at Belfast International Airport, looking for new cabin crew, engineers and mechanics.
The Irish airline plans to operate 16 routes from the airport this year, starting in March.
Belfast International has already announced a recruitment drive hoping to fill 300 roles across all areas of its operations, from baggage handling to hospitality.
It expects passenger numbers in 2023 to exceed the record numbers of 2019, when around 6.2 million people passed through the terminal.
As well as the return of Ryanair, EasyJet’s addition of another aircraft to its fleet at the airport, and the launch of Eastern Airways’ new daily service to Southampton, are expected to boost numbers.
It comes as Ryanair reported a rise in fares and profits on Monday, amid strong demand for travel.
The Dublin-based airline said average fares between October and December were 14 percent above 2019 levels.
It recorded a profit of €211m (£185m) for the quarter.
This compares with a loss of €96m (£84m) a year earlier, and is more than double its profit of €88m (£77m) for the same three months in 2019.
The airline carried 38.4 million passengers between October and December, up 24 percent year-on-year and 7 percent above pre-virus levels.
Ryanair said there was “strongly pent-up travel demand” during the October half-term holiday and the Christmas and New Year period.
There is “robust demand” for Easter and summer flights from 2023, driven by the return of Asian tourists and Americans encouraged to visit Europe by the strength of the US dollar, chief executive Michael O’Leary said. explain.
He recommended that people wanting the lowest rates should book as soon as possible, as “we expect it to sell out early”.
Ryanair said it has announced 230 new routes for the 12 months to the end of March 2024 and is expanding in Italy, Poland, Ireland and Spain.
The company took delivery of 11 Boeing 737 Gamechanger aircraft in the last quarter, bringing its fleet of the more fuel-efficient aircraft to 84.
Ryanair said its decision to locate two new Boeing jets at Belfast International represented an investment of around $200m (£164m).
Meanwhile, Mr O’Leary said an investment of more than $200m (£161m) would save 1.5 per cent in fuel by retrofitting existing chord-wing aircraft.
He added that more than 95 percent of crews with pandemic-related pay cuts have been reinstated by agreement.