Flybe returns with Birmingham, Belfast and Heathrow operation

Flybe returns with Birmingham, Belfast and Heathrow operation
Revived airline will face intense competition on many of its routes

Two years after closing down, with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs, Flybe is set to start flying next month – beginning with four aircraft and seven routes.

The resurrected carrier will have its headquarters in Birmingham but its main base at Belfast City.

Flybe will also restore the London Heathrow-Leeds Bradford link, which British Airways abandoned as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020. It plans to link the two cities up to three times daily.

Flybe intends to use its Q400 planes, as its predecessor did. These propeller aircraft will be in competition with existing jet services connecting Heathrow with Belfast City and Amsterdam.

It will fly only twice daily on each link, far fewer than BA.

Amsterdam will also be connected with Belfast City, Birmingham and East Midlands from late April.

In the summer the carrier will launch French regional services: from Birmingham and Southampton to Avignon, from Birmingham to Brest in Brittany and from Southampton to Toulon Hyeres. The route network will increase to 23 city pairs, with up to 530 flights a week.

Flybe’s chief executive, Dave Pflieger, said: “Our goal is to create an airline that people love, and we aim to do that by making air travel on Flybe an easy and enjoyable experience.”

“We think our new flights will benefit everyone who wants low fares and more flights to go on holiday and visit loved ones.

“Our new network will also ensure better regional connectivity inside the UK and between various UK and EU regions.”

But observers say there is little room left for what is effectively a new, small regional player – with all the viable routes already picked up by airlines such as Loganair, Eastern Airways, Aer Lingus, British Airways and easyJet.

The airline schedule analyst Sean Moulton said: “Of Flybe’s 12 routes planned from Belfast City, 11 will have direct or indirect competition across the two Belfast airports.

“Only Belfast City to East Midlands is completely unserved.”

The original Flybe collapsed in 2020 after investors hoping to rescue the airline pumped in £100m without success.

The revived carrier was originally planning to begin services in “early 2022”. Instead, it will miss the busy Easter holiday on all but two of its routes: from Belfast City to Birmingham and Glasgow.

Flybe planned route network, start dates and maximum frequency

  • Belfast City-Birmingham, 13 April, four daily
  • Belfast City-Glasgow, 14 April four daily
  • Belfast City-Leeds Bradford, 28 April, three daily
  • Belfast City-London Heathrow, 28 April, twice daily
  • Leeds Bradford-London Heathrow, 28 April, three daily
  • Amsterdam-Birmingham, 28 April, daily
  • Amsterdam-East Midlands, 28 April, daily
  • Amsterdam-Belfast, 28 May, daily
  • Amsterdam-London Heathrow, 29 May, twice daily
  • Belfast City-Edinburgh, 23 June, three daily
  • Belfast City-East Midlands, 7 July, twice daily
  • Belfast City-Manchester, 7 July, four daily
  • Birmingham-Avignon, 9 July, weekly
  • Birmingham-Brest, 9 July, weekly
  • Southampton-Avignon, 23 July, weekly
  • Southampton-Toulon Hyères, 24 July, weekly
  • Belfast City-Southampton, 28 July, two daily
  • Birmingham-Edinburgh, 28 July, four daily
  • Birmingham-Glasgow, 28 July, three daily
  • Aberdeen-Birmingham, 18 August, daily
  • Aberdeen-Belfast City, 25 August, four weekly
  • Belfast City-Inverness, 25 August, four weekly
  • Belfast City-Newcastle, 25 August, daily