Airline could drop flight routes over emissions concerns

Europe’s largest regional airline could axe some routes over environmental concerns, the boss of its new owner has revealed.

Flybe was renamed Virgin Connect earlier this week after being taken over by the Connect Airways consortium of operators featuring Virgin Atlantic.

Connect Airways chief executive Mark Anderson said the airline could stop flying between airports where the journey can be made easily by train or car.

In an interview with the PA news agency at the Airlines 2050 aviation summit in Westminster, he said: “We need to be responsible.

“Maybe there are some routes in the future, as I look at the future of Virgin Connect and how we’re connecting people to their world, that we will potentially not fly.

“We will potentially say ‘Actually this makes more sense by train or this makes more sense by road’, and maybe in the future we’ll get behind that as well.”

Flybe currently operates a number of domestic routes in Britain between cities which are connected by direct trains, such as Manchester-Glasgow, Birmingham-Edinburgh, Exeter-Manchester and Exeter-London City.

The flight-shaming movement, which has grown in recent months, encourages people to stop travelling by air.

Dutch airline KLM will reduce the number of daily flights it operates between Amsterdam and Brussels from five to four from March 2020 by offering customers a seat on a high-speed train.

Mr Anderson insisted that regional carriers “shouldn’t be a prime target” for environmentalists, stating that the twin propeller planes used by Virgin Connect emit around half the carbon emissions of jet aircraft.

There is “definitely a role for aviation” in how people travel, he said.

“A lot of the routes that we fly, the reason that people travel with us is that it’s a lot longer, it’s a lot more difficult by road or rail.”

He added that airlines have made “great progress” in improving their sustainability in recent years, but acknowledged that the industry “has more work to do in improving its carbon footprint”.

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