Published: 23 July, 2013
Flybe has built a reputation on a 22 year strong record of providing consistent, high frequency air services from the UK regions to the London Gatwick airport, but the company, in a shocking move, announced to the London Stock Exchange that this is all due to change.
Flybe has confirmed the sale of its arrival and departure slots at London Gatwick to Easyjet for a reported amount of £ 20m. The company is due to continue all air services until the end of March 2014, when services will stop completely.
Flybe has a strong reputation as one of the top providers of domestic air service is in the UK, and operates more domestic flights than any other British airline.
Flybe has also been the recipient of the airport's Gold Award, presented to the most punctual airline, every quarter since the award's introduction in 2009.
This, however, hasn't prevented what many are calling an unfair hike in prices that's causing this smaller airline to pull out of Gatwick.
The airport's owners have initiated price and fee increases that, over the last 5 years, have resulted in about a 102% increase for smaller airlines such as Flybe.
Flybe argued to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that Gatwick was engaging in anti-competitive and discriminatory practices in 2010, citing the 1986 Airports Act in a very public and lengthy formal complaint.
The ruling, however, was that Gatwick was within its right to raise landing fees for small aircraft, despite obvious support from other airlines and the community.
Until Saturday 29th March, 2014, Flybe will continue normal operations on all domestic Gatwick routes (from Belfast City, Guernsey, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Newcastle, and Newquay).
There will be no change to pricing, times, or frequency of flights, and no adjustments made to any other route currently operating out of those airports.
Flybe has stated that funds generated from the sale of the Gatwick slots will be re-invested in the remaining 159 routes.
In a separate matter, Flybe has also advised the London Stock Exchange of the significant advances the company has made in their plan to return its UK based airline schedule to profitability.
Increased annual cost savings of £ 30m (£ 5m above its target goal) for the year 2013/14 and onward is one of these pieces of positive evidence.
They've also brokered a deal with British Airlines Pilots Association (BALPA) for a 5% salary reduction in exchange for more time off.
Jim French, Flybe’s Chairman and Chief Executive, in a statement following the announcement said:
“No business can swallow such a massive increase in such a short period of time and it is with real regret and some anger that we have made this decision. Flybe fully appreciates the implications this will have, not only on individual passengers but also on the wider regional economies that have come to rely on the convenient lifeline connections we provide to Gatwick. However, we have to accept the ugly reality that Gatwick simply doesn’t want smaller, regional aircraft at their airport and, with the absence of a regional aviation strategy and the government’s penalistic and ludicrous policy of charging Air Passenger Duty (APD) on both legs of a domestic flight, I’m afraid it’s inevitable that high frequency services from the UK’s regions will ultimately be squeezed out of Gatwick, as they have been from Heathrow.”
He continued: “Until March 29th 2014, however, it remains business as usual and I can reassure all our customers that until then Flybe will continue to offer affordable, reliable and above average punctuality on our seven London Gatwick routes with no changes to pricing, frequency or timings. The connectivity we provide for our seven million passengers through major international airports like Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton, Amsterdam and Paris will mean that that hundreds of international connections will also still be available.”
Mr French concluded: “Gatwick airport may not want those connecting passengers, but others do. Flybe will work with other airports across the nation to ensure the UK’s regional passengers don’t get left in the cold.”
Until March 29th 2014 it is business as usual so book your flights on the official Flybe website or alternatively head to www.cheapflights.co.uk/airlines/Flybe and get the best deals on Flybe flights!