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Flybe: turbulence prompts a second nosedive

The first reaction was shock, said Sophie Zeldin-O’Neill in The Guardian. Some of those due to fly with Flybe, the UK regional airline that collapsed for the second time in three years last weekend, had booked tickets just hours before the news came through. “I got an email asking me to check in, and ten minutes later they had gone into administration,” said one passenger. Hundreds of others were left “stranded” and out-of-pocket at their outbound destination because the company wasn’t part of the Atol protection scheme.  

Doubtless some 300 staff, now in limbo as administrators comb through the books, will sympathise with their plight, said Jon Yeomans in The Sunday Times. Yet it turns out that the writing was already on the wall. The Belfast- and Birmingham-based carrier, which was losing £5m a month, had begun looking for a buyer in October – just six months after it relaunched. The owner, the US hedge fund Cyrus Capital, is now listed as a creditor, along with several leasing firms. Ryanair has reportedly offered a lifeline to Flybe staff by setting up a fast-track recruitment process. 

Flybe’s latest nosedive is a blow to “regional connectivity”, and thus the Government’s levelling-up agenda, said Ben Marlow in The Daily Telegraph. But the troubles of smaller European carriers – Norway’s Flyr is the latest to face “permanent grounding” – are a boon to larger competitors such as easyJet and Ryanair. Reduced competition is rarely good for any market. But in UK aviation, where ticket prices rose by an eye-popping 44.1% last year, the growing “stranglehold” is particularly grim. For now, passengers seem willing to put up with it: Ryanair is on course for record profits this year. “At some point, though, a backlash seems inevitable.”

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