Manchester and Birmingham Airports remain bullish they will replace the routes dropped by Flybe”s acquisition of BA Connect, although Bristol expressed regret at Flybe”s withdrawal.
The merger that saw Flybe create 11 new regional routes but drop 14, has hit Manchester business travellers particularly hard, although behind the scenes negotiations are under way to restore services.
Routes that were chopped by Flybe from the north west gateway include Geneva, Lyon, Madrid, Vienna, Berlin and Aberdeen, although competitor, bmi regional, says it will up its services to the latter destination from Manchester to six weekday. Glasgow and Edinburgh will increase to seven and five daily rotations respectively to Manchester.
”Manchester is in discussion with other airlines and is confident it will pick up these routes pretty quickly,” said an airport spokesman. ”We can”t say which airlines we are talking to but this is already happening. I can”t give a time but it will be fairly soon, although Flybe will not re-introduce them.”
Birmingham also sees routes previously operated by BA Connect to Berlin, Madrid and Lyon dropped, but the airport is also chipper, noting: ”We are in talks to find other airlines to operate these destinations. Out of 16 BA Connect routes, 13 will be flown by Flybe or other carriers.”
Flybe has long been a champion of operating regional services from the UK to secondary European airports, mindful of the considerable travel needs of those with additional overseas properties. Despite its business route decisions from Manchester, the airline has nonetheless launched several new destinations from the north, including Manchester to Guernsey, Bergerac, Limoges and La Rochelle.
”The bottom line is economics and some of the BA Connect markets were more than a challenge,” Flybe”s head of public relations, Niall Duffy, told ABTN. ”We are not a charity and have to look very carefully where we operate.
”There will be an average of one new aircraft coming into the Flybe fleet every month during the next two and a half years and we have already received two Embraer 195 aircraft with another 12 to come.”
There was not such good news for Bristol Airport however, with the Flybe decision to close its base with the potential loss of 193 jobs. ”My team and I took a long hard look at BA Connect”s loss-making operations out of Bristol and regretfully could not make a viable economic case for their retention,” said Flybe chief commercial officer, Mike Rutter. ”This will be the only base closure resulting from the acquisition of BA Connect.”
”We apologise for the inconvenience but hope that customers will understand that without swift action there would be no chance of stemming BA Connect”s chronic losses.”
Flybe is to close its Bristol base with the potential loss of 193 jobs and will cease services to Paris, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Glasgow and Edinburgh in addition to BA Connect's decision to drop flights to Zurich, Milan and Munich. EasyJet however, is to start departures from Bristol to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paris Charles de Gaulle from 14 April.
The airport is advising passengers wishing to fly to Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Munich and Zurich, to book with either KLM or Brussels Airlines via Amsterdam and Brussels.