flybe announced plans to suspend summer Manchester-Guernsey service after Guernsey’s Commerce and Employment Department said it was reviewing all air transport licences (BBC News, 09-Mar-2011). flybe, which has operates services to the island for 20 years, said it was “bemused” by the department’s decision and questioned why it hasn’t followed “the rest of Europe in operating an open skies policy". flybe said it would appeal against the suspension, which it believes was taken “purely and simply to protect the states' very own loss-making airline, Aurigny.”
flybe's Guernsey to Manchester route suspended
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Flybe at Heathrow: Europe's largest regional airline enters Europe's largest airport, gets new CEO
On 20-Dec-2016 Flybe announced its first ever routes from London Heathrow and the appointment of a new chief executive. Europe's largest regional airline will launch Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh at the start of summer 2017. Former CityJet head, Christine Ourmieres-Widener, will become CEO of Flybe from 16-Jan-2017, replacing Saad Hammad, who left on 26-Oct-2016.
Flybe already operates to the two Scottish cities from London City in competition with British Airways. Its Heathrow turboprop services will compete directly with BA's narrowbody jets, and there is also competition from Ryanair and easyJet from other London airports on the city pairs. Flybe has previously baulked at Heathrow's high charges, but has now changed its mind.
Flybe's new Heathrow services will use slots previously used by Virgin Atlantic's Little Red on the same routes. Little Red failed to fill its aircraft and ceased operating after two years. Flybe will be hoping that its smaller aircraft and lower frequencies will be easier to fill. Extending its codeshare agreements with its long haul partners to include Heathrow routes would help. It will also do Flybe no harm that it already participates in the Avios loyalty scheme owned by IAG, the parent of Heathrow's largest airline British Airways.
Flybe: largest regional airline in Europe leads the airline capacity growth charge in winter 2016/17
The surprise departure of Flybe CEO Saad Hammad on 26-Oct-2016 "by mutual agreement" raises questions about the future strategic direction of Europe's largest regional airline. Mr Hammad joined in Aug-2013 and implemented a restructuring programme, returning Flybe to profit in FY2016 (March year end).
Capacity reduction during the restructuring has been followed by a period of accelerating growth. So much so that Flybe is Europe's fastest-growing airline group among the top 20 in Europe by seat numbers this winter, with an increase of 19%. CAPA has identified 45 new Flybe routes in calendar 2016 (compared with a late summer total of 165), on the majority of which Flybe has no airline competitor.
Despite low competition on its network, Flybe's FY2016 operating margin was one of the lowest among listed European airlines and coincided with weakening unit revenue. Pricing has softened further, not least due to uncertainties such as Brexit, just as Flybe's capacity growth has accelerated.
Until a replacement for Mr Hammad is found, Flybe's Chairman Simon Laffin will assume executive responsibility. Significant strategic change may be unlikely in the interim, but a key question for the next CEO will be whether to continue with such aggressive capacity growth in the face of falling fares.