Flights cancelled and fears raised for jobs at airport as Flybe ceases to trade
UK airline Flybe has eased trading with immediate effect All flights have been cancelled and aircraft are grounded at Southampton Airport leaving a question mark hanging over Flybe’s 2,000 UK employees and the future of Eastleigh’s local Airport.
The Civil Aviation Authority have advised all passengers due to fly out with Flybe or their partner carrier Stobart Air today not to travel to the airport and to seek ‘alternative travel arrangements’ while passengers booked on Flybe franchise partners (Eastern Airways, and Blue Islands) should contact those airlines to check if their flights will be operating.
In a statement the Department for Transport have said that their staff will be on hand at all affected UK airports to help passengers and that they have asked bus and train operators to accept Flybe tickets and other airlines to offer reduced rescue fares to stranded passengers. The DfT also added that the government has activated their Jobcentre Plus Rapid Response Service which is ready to help Flybe staff find a new job as soon as possible.
Flybe ran into financial difficulties last year and then again in January. The government has been considering intervening with a financial assistance package that includes concessions on Airport Passenger Duty and a £100 million loan to keep the airline flying but the Financial Times has reported that the government has decided against lending the operators a parachute after bookings collapsed due to the coronavirus crisis.
Last month Airport Managing Director Neil Garwood told a meeting of the Southampton Airport Consultative Committee that Flybe operated over 90% of the flights at Southampton and that the airport was over reliant on the one carrier. He argued that it was important for the runway to be extended in order to attract other carriers and ensure the long term survival of the Airport but the plans are opposed by environmental and resident action groups and have met with objections from neighbouring Southampton and Winchester City Councils who say the carbon emissions generated by increased air travel are incompatible with carbon reduction targets.The planning application to extend the Airport runway is due to heard by Eastleigh Borough Council shortly.
In a statement issued this morning Neil Garwood called on the government to abolish Air Passenger Duty in the forthcoming budget:
“Today is a tough day for Southampton Airport and for all regions across the UK. At this time our focus is on our people and our passengers, and especially the Flybe staff who have been part of the airport family for many years.
“We will be taking stock of where we are in the coming days, and working hard to find alternatives for passengers and connectivity for the people across our region.
“Demand for flying remains and regional connectivity is more important than ever. The budget next week is a chance for the Government to show leadership by abolishing Air Passenger Duty tax and showing visible support for regional aviation in this country.”