Government attacked amid Flybe fallout

Unions and politicians have reacted with fury over the collapse of Flybe just weeks after the company narrowly avoided going under in January.

A drop in demand caused by the coronavirus "made a difficult situation worse" for Flybe, an airline source told the PA news agency, and although crisis talks were held throughout Wednesday to try to secure a rescue package, no deal could be agreed.

The end of the Exeter-based airline will threaten thousands of jobs and the future of a number of regional airports.

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Flybe plane on sandy airstrip Isle of Barra airport, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. (Photo By: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A flybe passenger plane lands at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex as BAA are forced to sell the site and break their monopoly on airport sites across the UK.
George Best's son Calum launches ''The George Best'' a specially branded Flybe Q400 aircraft, which will service Belfast City and Manchester Airports.
The pilot completes final checks before taking the first flight out of Glasgow Airport, a Flybe plane to Stornoway at 7:15am this morning. It was one of only a handful of domestic flights scheduled from Scotland this morning despite the re-opening of airspace.
the first Embraer 195 for FlyBe msn029 in the Embraer production-line factory. (Photo by: aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Flybe marks 30 years of operations in Northern Ireland by flying in dignitaries from five key destinations for a special visit, arriving at George Best Belfast city airport. Rolling out the red carpet are (left to right) Andrea Hayes, regional manager Flybe, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor John Lines, the Lord Mayor Elect of Manchester, Councillor Naeem Ul Hassan, the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Councillor Rachel Lyons, the Provost of Inverness, Councillor Alexander Graham, the Mayor of Southampton Councillor Ivan White and Belfast Lord Mayor, Alderman Gavin Robinson.
A general view of Flybe flight BE130 from Glasgow to Belfast which was forced to make an emergency landing at Belfast International Airport after an engine fire.
A Flybe aircraft at Liverpool John Lennon Airport
A Dornier 328 painted in the purple colours of Loganair, a Flybe franchise partner at Kirkwall airport.
Flybe BE331 on the tarmac after it landed with no nose gear at Belfast International Airport.
A Flybe plane prepares to take off in rainy conditions at Leeds Bradford Airport as heavy rain and gusts of up to 50mph are forecast following weeks of hot, dry weather.
Departures screen at George Best Belfast City Airport after Flybe flights at the airport were cancelled. Flybe has blamed a shortage of pilots as one of the reasons after it cancelled dozens of flights from airports around the UK on Wednesday.
A Flybe flight departs from Manchester Airport, as airline bosses have held crunch talks with the Government to see whether they could provide or facilitate emergency financing after reports that it was at risk of collapse.
File photo dated 13/01/2020 of a Flybe flight departing from Manchester Airport as the airline has confirmed it has agreed a financial arrangement to defer tax payments of "less than �10 million" with HM Revenue and Customs.
File photo dated 25/2/2020 of a De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 owned and operated by Flybe landing at Heathrow Airport. Flybe is facing fresh doubts over its future after failing to secure a �100 million loan.
BRAZIL - 2019/08/03: In this photo illustration the Flybe Group logo is seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
EXETER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: A Flybe airline flag is pictured at Exeter Airport near Exeter on October 18, 2018 in Devon, England. The value of shares in the Exeter-based airline Flybe, have fallen dramatically recently after the company issued another profit warning, blaming poor demand, a weaker pound and higher fuel costs.(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
EXETER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: A Flybe airline sign is pictured at Exeter Airport near Exeter on October 18, 2018 in Devon, England. The value of shares in the Exeter-based airline Flybe, have fallen dramatically recently after the company issued another profit warning, blaming poor demand, a weaker pound and higher fuel costs.(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
EXETER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: A Flybe airline sign is pictured at Exeter Airport near Exeter on October 18, 2018 in Devon, England. The value of shares in the Exeter-based airline Flybe, have fallen dramatically recently after the company issued another profit warning, blaming poor demand, a weaker pound and higher fuel costs.(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
EXETER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: People pass a Flybe airline check-in sign at Exeter Airport on October 18, 2018 in Exeter, England. The value of shares in the Exeter-based airline Flybe, have fallen dramatically recently after the company issued another profit warning, blaming poor demand, a weaker pound and higher fuel costs.(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 13: Aled Jones (C) poses for photographs with flight crew after launching his new Christmas album "One Voice At Christmas" where he performed Walking In The Air and Christmas carols for passengers at 18,000ft on a FLYBE service between London and Cardiff on October 13, 2016 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 13: Aled Jones (C) poses for photographs with flight crew after launching his new Christmas album "One Voice At Christmas" where he performed Walking In The Air and Christmas carols for passengers at 18,000ft on a FLYBE service between London and Cardiff on October 13, 2016 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
INFLIGHT, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 13: Aled Jones launches his new Christmas album "One Voice At Christmas" performing Walking In The Air and Christmas carols for passengers at 18,000ft on a FLYBE service between London and Cardiff on October 13, 2016 in the United Kingdom. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
men reading newspapers sitting in the economy-class cabin seats of a FlyBe Bombardier DHC-8 Q400 on flight number BE1001 LGW-DUS. (Photo by: aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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Unite national officer Oliver Richardson told the PA news agency: "Unite members and the entire staff at Flybe, will be feeling angry and confused about how and why the airline has been allowed to collapse.

"It is simply outrageous that the government has not learned the lessons following the collapse of both Monarch and Thomas Cook that the much promised airline insolvency review has still not materialised.

"While other European countries are able to introduce measures to keep airlines flying when they enter administration, the UK remains unable or unwilling to do so.

"The UK economy is highly dependent on a viable and supported regional airline and airport network. For central government not to support and nurture this, especially as we deal with the twin uncertainties of the Covid-19 virus and the changes that will come with Brexit, is unhelpful and irresponsible.

"Other major airlines have repeatedly said that they are ready and willing to organise flights on Flybe's routes and for the sake of the passengers and communities that the airline served, the government must ensure that those commitments become reality.

"Unite will be providing advice and assistance to our members to help them at this highly difficult time."

Andy McDonald, Shadow Transport Secretary, said the loss of Flybe would cause "real anxiety" throughout the country.

He said: "The Civil Aviation Authority is sadly very well practised, following the collapse of Monarch and Thomas Cook, at responding to airline failure and looking after passengers. No doubt they will do that once more.

"Yet again more airline workers face an anxious future and the Government has to respond and provide them with all necessary support.

"Flybe has provided critical connectivity for many locations throughout the country especially where there is currently no realistic transport alternative other than flying.

"The Government has to answer how those vital links will be maintained following Flybe's collapse. Communities will be concerned about what this will mean for their local economies and the Secretary of State has to come up with answers to these questions as a matter of urgency."

Rory Boland, the travel editor at consumer group Which?, said oil prices, Brexit and the coronavirus had all contributed to a collapse which surprised few people in the industry.

"It has been a turbulent couple of years for airlines. Not just regional airlines, we've seen dozens go under, not just in the UK but across Europe," Mr Boland told the BBC.

"Bouncing around oil prices haven't helped, Brexit has also had an impact.

"Flybe would point at least some of the blame to air passenger duty and it seems the coronavirus has just slightly pushed (Flybe) over the edge, but it has been struggling for many, many years, and I don't think it will come as a huge surprise to lots of people in the travel industry that it's going under."

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