Flybe rescued by Virgin Atlantic and Stobart consortium

Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group have agreed an offer on regional airline Flybe in a £2.2 million deal which will see the creation of a new airline group

VIRGIN Atlantic and Stobart Group have swooped on regional airline Flybe in a £2.2 million deal which will see the creation of a new airline group.

The companies, in conjunction with Cyrus Capital Partners, have agreed an offer of just 1p per share for Flybe, which put itself up for sale in November.

Under the plans, the airline will be combined with Stobart Air in a joint venture called Connect Airways.

Cyrus will own 40 per cent of the new company, while Virgin and Stobart will take 30 per cent apiece.

The three companies have committed to make a £20 million bridge available to support Flybe's current operations, while an additional £80 million will be provided to the combined group.

Flybe chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener said the firm had been forced to seek a buyer due to higher fuel costs, currency fluctuations and Brexit uncertainty.

"We have been affected by all of these factors which have put pressure on short-term financial performance," she said.

"At the same time, Flybe suffered from a number of legacy issues that are being addressed but are still adversely affecting cash flows.

"By combining to form a larger, stronger group, we will be better placed to withstand these pressures. We aim to provide an even better service to our customers and secure the future for our people."

The rescue deal will come as a relief to George Best Belfast City Airport, where is is by far the biggest carrier.

Indeed Belfast is one of flybe's top three UK bases, where the airline employs more than 200 people and operates to an extensive network of regional services throughout the UK, with a growing number of connections further afield.

In October, Flybe celebrated 35 years operating from Belfast City.

Originating as an air-taxi company owned by a family run steel company C Walker & Sons, Spacegrand Aviation as it was known then, made its first official flight to Belfast Harbour Airport from Blackpool in 1983. A few months later Walkers Steel Group bought over Jersey European Airways and the airline began commercial activity from Belfast.

From those early days of 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft and limited destinations Flybe has grown and evolved alongside Belfast City Airport to offer up to 295 flights a week to 15 destinations across the UK using a core fleet of Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

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