CONNECT! 2014: New Flybe team turning loss into profit

After making a loss of approximately £40 million in its last announced financial year, Flybe looks set to announce a small profit in its upcoming results, according to chief commercial officer, Paul Simmons, in a briefing to delegates at CONNECT! in Marrakech.

The result comes after the airline underwent high level management changes in the second half of 2013, with Simmons himself joining the team from easyJet in October. Now, after closing some bases, dropping loss-making routes and laying off some staff, the CCO believes the company is in the right place to grow once again.

“We recapitalised the company with £150 million which will be used to develop three new bases, the first of which is London City beginning in October this year. The others will follow in 2015 and 2016,” he reported. While the other bases are not yet decided, Simmons confirmed that Flybe is very open to putting those bases outside the UK.

The carrier has also tweaked its brand with the introduction of purple livery on some of its aircraft, a new-look website and guarantees such as the 60:60 offer, whereby if a flight is more than 60 minutes late, Flybe will give passengers a £60 voucher which can be used against any flight within the subsequent 60 days.

Simmons noted the imminent start of services from Southend to be operated by the ATR 72s of Stobart Air. Asked why the airline didn’t use its own turboprops for the base, he remarked that the opportunity arose for a base which had not been the company’s top priority but which was worth pursuing to help build brand awareness. “We did lengthy due diligence on Stobart Air,” he noted. “And it helps as we look to become the number one brand for regional connectivity across Europe.”

On the subject of Flybe’s fleet plans, Simmons confirmed the departure of the Embraer 195s. “We found that operationally they fell between two stools, not ideal for the regional work we want to do and not so efficient in trip costs compared with aircraft like the A319. So we think we’ll be better off with the Q400s and the E175s. We’ve also acquired five more Q400s for the London City operation,” he commented. These aircraft are pre-owned and had previously been on lease with Flybe.

Finally, Simmons reported that Flybe is participating in a PSO bid for the Newquay–London route, the decision on which he expects to be made shortly.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Marrakech, Morocco

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