September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Now in its 27th year, the Business Travel Awards
Rail operators can’t compete with regional airlines on popular air/rail routes as the infrastructure is “not yet there”, Flybe’s new CEO has said.
Speaking to BBT, chief executive, Christine Ourmieres-Widener, said operators such as Virgin Trains East Coast, which runs the popular London to Edinburgh route, is a “significant” player but can’t yet compete until projects such as HS2 are finished.
“Planned train infrastructure is good for the UK as it needs to improve but it will take a long time before we see routes to Scotland [from London] in less than three hours,” said Ourmieres-Widener. “You have to adapt and if at some point certain routes provide a significant alternative solution we will re-invent ourselves. We can’t fight against improved infrastructure through big rail projects or technology but this could take a long time.”
Her comments follow the announcement that Flybe is starting flights from Heathrow to Scotland for the first time. The regional airline will offer more than 40 flights a week from Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Heathrow in March.
The last airline to operate this route was Virgin Little Red which axed the service after just 18 months due to poor capacity. Flybe’s chief executive said she’s not concerned by this and has used the “close partnership” with Virgin to learn from their experience.
“They were flying Airbus aircraft and we will fly Turboprops, which is the main difference,” she said. “The capacity will be much smaller... we position ourselves as an outsider so want to provide a different and competitive option to travel to Scotland.”
She added: “We have many codeshare agreements with Star Alliance and Skyteam airlines and other carriers such as Emirates and we intend to do more. We had many requests for codeshares and we believe it’s a great opportunity for some airlines to have feeding traffic from Scotland and so our cost base will be a lot less than Virgin Little Red's was.”
Ourmieres-Widener only joined the airline last month and was followed by the appointment of Peter Hauptvogel as chief information officer. With more than 20 years experience in the aviation sector, he joins from Thomas Cook Group Airlines where he was IT Director, and previously CIO at Air Berlin.