Flybe adds Loganair routes to growing UK network; Southampton still biggest base

Image: Flybe
Flybe recently introduced its new Embraer 195 on the Birmingham-Düsseldorf service. It was given a traditional Brazilian welcome, with samba dancers on the apron.

Last month Flybe finally phased out the last of its four-engined British Aerospace 146 jets leaving it with a growing fleet of 70 aircraft, a mix of 44 Q400 turboprops, 14 Embraer 195s and 12 of the smaller Embraer ERJ-145s. The airline’s integration of the unprofitable British Airways Connect operation appears to have gone well and the airline reported record financial performance earlier in the year.

The most recent monthly statistics from the UK CAA show that in July Flybe operated more domestic flights in the UK than any other airline. With over 9,100 flights the airline comfortably beat bmi (5,500) and easyJet (4,600). British Airways (3,840), its subsidiary BA CityFlyer (573) and its franchise partner Loganair (3,168) operated around 7,600 domestic flights between them. Two weeks ago Loganair started operating as a Flybe franchise partner thus increasing Flybe’s dominance in terms of flights but leaving them still marginally behind easyJet in terms of domestic passengers transported.

UK domestic flights are 75% of Flybe’s business

Image: Kevin Keegen look
Flybe brushes off the throught that Northern Rock, Kevin Keegan and Newcastle United are not everybody’s idea of a dream brand portfolio by bravely unveiling its ‘Kevin Keegan’  Q400. Following Keegan’s departure as Newcastle United manager Flybe’s Chief Commercial Officer Mike Rutter said: “We wanted to find a fitting tribute in support of Kevin Keegan. We have put this black nose cone on as a mark of respect.”

Around three-quarters of Flybe’s capacity is dedicated to the UK domestic market, even after it acquired and maintained a significant number of international flights formerly operated by BA Connect. After taking over the BA Connect routes in March 2007 Flybe’s passenger numbers grew 35% in 2007 to just over six million. Apart from the UK domestic market Flybe also operated scheduled services to nine other countries during the summer season peak.

Market November 2007 Weekly Seats May 2008 Weekly Seats November 2008 Weekly Seats
UK domestic 156,250 170,540 173,726
UK – France 17,342 25,029 14,364
UK – Germany 14,162 13,918 16,472
UK – Spain 3,540 6,608 2,596
UK – Ireland 6,164 5,862 4,848
UK – Netherlands 4,859 4,954 4,152
UK – Italy 3,144 3,634 4,422
UK – Belgium 3,455 2,907 3,922
UK – Portugal 708 1,652  
UK – Croatia   708  
Total 209,624 235,812 224,502
Source: OAG Max Online

Compared with last winter UK domestic capacity is up over 10%, in part due to the Loganair deal. Capacity is also up on routes to Belgium, Germany and Italy but down on routes to France, Ireland, Netherlands and Spain.

Image: Skiers
Flybe has extended its winter ski schedule out of six UK airports – Birmingham, Exeter, Isle of Man, Jersey, Norwich and Southampton. Services are operated to resorts including Verbier, Chamonix, Val D’Isere and Courchevel. Pictured are top world cup snowboard athlete Lesley McKenna and cup alpine ski athlete Andy Noble.

Southampton’s limitations benefit Flybe

Flybe’s top 12 airports have remained unchanged during the last year though the rankings have altered slightly. Its biggest base is at Southampton, an airport whose runway length and operational limitations do not allow unrestricted flights with larger 737/A320 type aircraft. Manchester’s high ranking owes much to the BA Connect inheritance.

Chart: Top 12 Flybe airports
Source: OAG Max Online

While Flybe serves 22 destinations this winter from Southampton, 15 from Manchester and 14 from Belfast City, it serves just seven from London Gatwick. Despite this Gatwick ranks as Flybe’s fifth biggest airport, operating between three and six daily flights to Aberdeen, Belfast City, Guernsey, Inverness, Isle Of Man, Jersey and Newcastle. The big jump in terms of Gatwick capacity this summer can be attributed to the commencement of new services to Aberdeen and Newcastle.

One base that has underperformed is Norwich. Last winter Flybe operated 52 weekly departures to eight destinations whereas this winter it is just 27 to three destinations. One destination that has disappeared from the airline’s network is Galway in Ireland which last winter was served from Belfast, Birmingham and Southampton.


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