Flybe Buyer Emerges; Operations Set To Resume In 2021

Credit: Flybe / Twitter

LONDON—UK regional airline Flybe could resume operations in early 2021, after a company associated with former shareholder Cyrus Capital Partners agreed to acquire the airline from its administrators.

News of the deal emerged Oct. 19, spurring hopes that Europe’s largest regional airline could be revived. 

Ernst & Young said they have agreed to sell Flybe’s business and assets-including the airline’s brand, intellectual property, stock and equipment–to Cyrus Capital Partners affiliate Thyme Opco Limited.

“While the transaction is still subject to certain confidential conditions, the deal is expected to allow the Flybe business to re-start operations as a regional airline in the UK under the Flybe brand in early 2021,” Ernst & Young said.

Reports emerged that Flybe was on the brink of collapse on Jan. 12, less than a year after the airline’s operations were controversially acquired by the Connect Airways consortium, comprising UK long-haul operator Virgin Atlantic (30%), transport and infrastructure investor Stobart Group (30%) and investment fund manager Cyrus Capital Partners (40%). 

Flybe carried over 8.6 million passengers across a network of 139 routes in 2019. The Exeter-headquartered airline employed 2,400 staff and accounted for 38% of all UK domestic flights in 2019, ranking it as the UK’s largest domestic operator. 

However, after several months of financial problems, Flybe was forced to cease operations on March 4, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic, slow regulatory approvals and legacy issues for its demise.

“While we plan to start off smaller than before, we expect to create valuable airline industry jobs, restore essential regional connectivity in the UK and contribute to the recovery of a vital part of the country’s economy,” a Thyme Opco spokesperson said.

Unsurprisingly, pilots’ union BALPA reacted positively to the acquisition. “This is just the start of a long journey to a new Flybe, but we hope it is successful because Flybe’s collapse was a huge blow,” BALPA said Oct. 19. “A renewed Flybe would hopefully restore the vital air connections in the regions and nations of the UK and boost the economic recovery.”

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.