British Airline, Flybe, Collapses a Second Time

The British carrier Flybe, once the largest independent regional airline in Europe, canceled all flights on Saturday after filing for bankruptcy protection for a second time, marking what may be the final chapter for the chronically troubled company.

“We are sad to announce that Flybe has been placed into administration,” the company said in a statement on its website in the early hours of Saturday morning. “Flybe has now ceased trading. All Flybe flights from and to the UK are canceled and will not be rescheduled.”

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but administrators have been appointed by Britain’s High Court to take over the company, the statement said. The Department for Transport, which oversees aviation policy in the United Kingdom, also did not immediately respond.

Flybe, which at one point dominated the U.K. domestic flight market, had only restarted in April 2022 after becoming one of the first large-scale corporate casualties of the coronavirus outbreak. Like much of the global aviation industry, the airline was hit hard when travel plummeted and filed for bankruptcy in March 2020 with the loss of 2,400 jobs.

The airline was rescued last year by Thyme Opco, a company linked to the U.S. hedge fund Cyrus Capital.

But the sudden news on Saturday that Flybe had folded again left passengers stranded, as the airline made clear it would not be able to arrange alternative flights. About 2,500 passengers were set to fly with the airline on Saturday, and around 75,000 passengers in total have now had their flights canceled, according to figures confirmed by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, the country’s regulatory civil aviation body. The authority posted on its website a list of other airlines offering Flybe customers special fares.

“It is always sad to see an airline enter administration and we know that Flybe’s decision to stop trading will be distressing for all of its employees and customers,” Paul Smith, the authority’s consumer director, said in a statement.

By international standards, Britain has comparably low use of commercial domestic flights. In April, Britain’s government is set to introduce long-awaited cuts to the taxes imposed on domestic flight carriers in a bid to improve national connectivity. The move, which has been welcomed by the industry, is part of the government’s “leveling up” agenda — a policy that seeks to even out disparities between England’s economically disadvantaged North and its more prosperous South.

But the announcement of the tax cut back in 2021, just days before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, was criticized at the time by environmental groups. Some are now calling for Britain to enact a nationwide short-haul flight ban similar to one that France imposed last year. In April, France became the first country to ban flights between cities that are linked by a train trip of less than 2.5 hours.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain also drew criticism from political rivals for his use of domestic flights to travel around the country. “I travel to make myself as effective as possible on all of your behalf,” Mr. Sunak responded, while speaking to a local audience in the northwest of England.

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