Coronavirus: British airlines on brink of collapse

Flybe experiences financial hit as Coronavirus spreads fear in public.

United Kingdom (5th Mar, 2020): Former British airlines, Flybe, experiences major setback as fears of Coronavirus escalates. 

According to reports, the airline which came into business in 1979 as Jersey European Airways, later changed the name to Flybe. While based in Exeter, it was the primary choice for domestic flights outside of London, and served almost 119 routes within the UK and Europe.

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It was reportedly the largest airline in terms number of flights across major airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Birmingham, Glasgow including Manchester and even Southampton, respectively. Moreover, Flybe generally carried approximately nine million passengers per year. However, with the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, the airlines is on the brink of collapse once more [having faced financial lows before].

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According to reports, the UK government is allegedly stalling the payment of nearly 100 million pounds, which has resulted in Flybe’s website shutting down by Wednesday. Sources confirm that a “no longer live” message was displayed upon uploading the website. Furthermore, the aircrafts have not been refueled as well as laying off engineers according to PA news agency reports. The company had allegedly informed Ministers that it would require state assistance to stay afloat and functioning.

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The Exeter-based company operates almost two of the UK’s domestic flights with more than approximately 2,000 employees. While it was reported in January that the government has agreed to help keep the company going, there is no evidence that the current Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s plans to discontinue air passenger duty (APD) in the upcoming budget, respectively.

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It is to be noted, that with the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe, the airlines finances have been “battered” further leading to its almost collapse. Additionally, it has been indicated by the airlines shareholders, that without government assistance, Flybe would be unable to continue with its operations.

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Moreover, the latest statistics show that bookings for the airline have fallen to an almost fifty percent due to the fear of COVID-19 which is expected to hit the revenue significantly. Although the carrier is allegedly cutting executive pay as well as the hiring, firing, and pay increase processes, there is not potent confirmation that such crisis measure are indeed in place. In addition to this, there has been no comment either by Flybe management or by the Department of Transport so far.

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General Secretary for the British Airline Pilots Association, Brian Strutton, has reportedly commented that the government has made “unequivocal promises” to keep the airline and its “loyal staff and passengers” rightly expecting the authorities to keep Flybe in business.

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Alexandre de Juniac, who is the Director General for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has commented that the airlines are currently “experiencing double-digit declines in demand” as many routes seem to have collapsed and-or stopped. Moreover, it is being speculated that the employees are being asked to take leave without pay and that the UK government needs to consider the maintenance of air transport links, respectively.

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Aircraft are being parked and employees are being asked to take unpaid leave. In this emergency, governments need to consider the maintenance of air transport links in their response.

Alexandre de Juniac Director General, IATA

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