Flybe #1 UK domestic airline; 72 active aircraft spread across 14 UK bases this winter including fast-growing Gatwick

Image: flybe Embraer 195s at Southampton
The beautiful Embraer 195s at Southampton. With 21 destinations, Southampton still offers the most routes, followed by Birmingham and Manchester (16 each), although London Gatwick is the airline’s second biggest base by weekly seat capacity.

According to the latest UK CAA airline traffic statistics (for August 2009), Flybe and its franchise partner Loganair now operate more than twice as many UK domestic flights than any other airline. The bmi group and easyJet are virtually tied in second place with British Airways languishing way down in fourth place. However, in terms of passenger numbers, it is much closer with Flybe and Loganair transporting 529,000 passengers in August compared with 479,000 for easyJet and 366,000 for British Airways.

Over the last 10 years, Flybe (and its previous incarnations as Jersey European and British European) has grown from handling just under two million passengers in 1998 to just under seven million last year. The big jump in passenger numbers in 2007 was achieved by the integration of British Airways Connect which was sold to the airline.

Chart: Flybe’s growth - Annual passengers (millions) and load factor
Source: UK CAA
Image: flybe to the rescue
Mike Rutter at the Leeds-Bradford to Gatwick launch in April “rescuing” the London service following bmi’s dropped Heathrow route (the emblem to the left of Tower Bridge is a Yorkshire Rose).

Since 2003, annual average load factors have ranged between 60% and 70%. So far in 2009, passenger numbers are down around 6% while monthly load factors are down on average around five percentage points, suggesting that capacity has remained relatively stable.

Chart: Flybe seasonality - Monthly passengers 2006-09
Source: UK CAA

London Gatwick catching Southampton as #1 base

When anna.aero last analysed Flybe’s network, Southampton was the leading base followed by Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast City and London Gatwick. A year later, London Gatwick is now the airline’s second biggest base by weekly seat capacity. The number of routes from Gatwick has increased from seven to 10 during the course of 2009 with the addition of new multiple daily services to Düsseldorf, Leeds/Bradford and Newquay.

Chart: Top 11 Flybe airports by seat capacity - Number of destinations served this November in brackets
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 December 2009

Southampton still offers the most Flybe routes from a single airport (21), followed by Birmingham and Manchester (16 each). Other new routes started this year include seasonal weekly services to Jersey from Dundee, Humberside, Inverness and Manston.

France and Germany leading international markets

Around three-quarters of the airline’s capacity is assigned to domestic routes, but Flybe also offers year-round flights to Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain. During the summer, it also serves Croatia and Portugal, while in winter it operates ski flights to Austria (Salzburg) and Switzerland (Berne and Geneva).

A total of nine French destinations were served during the summer; Avignon, Bergerac, Brest, Nice, La Rochelle, Limoges, Paris CDG, Perpignan and Rennes. In Germany, five destinations are served; Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover and Stuttgart. Many of the German routes were acquired when the airline absorbed British Airways Connect. The busiest mainland European airports for Flybe this winter are Paris CDG (67 weekly departures) and Düsseldorf (65 weekly departures). This winter, the airline is operating a total of 119 routes spread across 48 airports, up slightly on last winter when the corresponding figures were 115 routes and 46 airports.

Image: flybe samba dancers
But of course! Samba dancers greet the Embraer 195’s arrival on Birmingham-Düsseldorf services. About three quarters of capacity is on UK domestic routes, although the busiest mainland European airports this winter are Paris CDG (67 weekly departures) and Düsseldorf (65).

72 aircraft spread across 14 UK bases; Etihad agreement

Over the years, Flybe (and its predecessors) have operated a range of aircraft types including more recently CRJs, ERJs and BAe 146s. It has now settled on a dual fleet of just two aircraft types; the Embraer 195 and the Bombardier Q400. Apart from operating its own routes Flybe has leased four Q400s to the new Olympic Air for a 12-month period. As a result the airline currently has a fleet of 72 available aircraft (58 Q400s and 14 E195s) spread across 14 bases in the UK.

Last month, the airline announced a codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways. Under the deal, Flybe will place its ‘BE’ code on Etihad’s flights between Paris, Frankfurt and Manchester and its Abu Dhabi home base. In turn, the Abu Dhabi-based airline will place its two-letter ‘EY’ code on a number of services operated by Flybe between the same three destinations as well as Southampton, Isle of Man, Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Exeter for travel effective 13th November.

Image: flybe Band
Launch of Newquay-London Gatwick with a Beach Boy tribute band in February. Does anyone else think that the pilot looks the most like Brian Wilson (inset).

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