Cornwall has been dealt a heavy blow following the news that regional airline Flybe has gone into administration.
Flybe was controversially bailed out earlier this year when the Government agreed to defer a tax bill. It was only a short-term fix, however, and compounded by the coronavirus crisis which has had a significant impact on bookings, the airline could not survive.
In a letter to the airline’s staff, chief executive Mark Anderson said: “Despite every effort, we now have no alternative – having failed to find a feasible solution to allow us to keep trading.
“I am very sorry that we have not been able to secure the funding needed to continue to deliver our turnaround,” he added.
The collapse has a particularly significant impact for Cornwall. In addition to a daily link to London, Flybe also flew to such destinations as Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds Bradford. There was also excitement at the prospect of a new link to Amsterdam, which was due to get underway this month.
Earlier this year, many in the Cornish business community were dismayed at the news that Flybe was switching its four-times a day service to London Heathrow back to London Gatwick. This was due to come into effect at the end of this March, but now there is the prospect of no link to the capital at all.
The Government has said it will work with other airlines to replace services: “We are working closely with industry to minimise any disruption to routes operated by Flybe, including by looking urgently at how routes not already covered by other airlines can be re-established by the industry.”
The London route was operated under a Government-funded Public Service Obligation, so it is likely that another airline will step in to fill this void sooner rather than later.
Speaking to the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, the chairman of Cornwall Airport, Tim Jeans, said the collapse is “very serious event for Cornwall and the economy of Cornwall”.
He said the airport had been already been talking to other airlines about taking over Flybe’s routes. “We very much hope that the routes – in particular to London, but also to Manchester and Scotland – will be maintained and that we will have service back on those routes hopefully within weeks rather than months.”
Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport, Geoff Brown, said: “I am deeply concerned by the news that Flybe has gone into administration. This is a blow, not only for our residents and visitors to Cornwall, but also for the staff the airline employs.
“Flybe’s collapse will have an impact on regional airports and travellers across the country, including here in Cornwall where many passengers relied on the airline to connect them to other parts of the UK and mainland Europe.
“Flights between Cornwall Airport Newquay and London are guaranteed under a Public Service Obligation (PSO) agreed with the government, and I will be taking immediate steps along with Cornwall Airport Newquay, the Department for Transport and St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double, to secure a new provider.”
Double added: “The decision for Flybe to go into administration was a commercial one, made by the company. The shareholders have also stated there has been a severe impact of COVID-19 on Flybe’s trading.
“The Government had been in constant talks with the airline and continued to be prepared to support them within what they are allowed to do legally under EU state aid rules.
“I have already spoken with the Aviation Minister, who has confirmed the Government’s ongoing support for both our airport and particularly our vital London connection.
“I will now make it a priority to work with the Department for Transport, Cornwall Council and the management of Cornwall Airport Newquay to find another airline to take on this route as soon as possible.”