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Struggling UK airline Flybe 'looks set to collapse within hours' after coronavirus fears hit business

A Flybe plane remains on the tarmac in Glasgow after flights were cancelled. Credit: ITV News

Struggling UK airline Flybe looks set to collapse within hours, ITV News' Business Editor reports.

The Exeter-based airline employs 2,500 staff whose jobs look set to be at risk.

Earlier on Wednesday, Flybe informed the government that it is running out of money and would not survive until the end of the month.

The airline, which was already in difficulty, requested an emergency taxpayer loan of £100 million in January, but it has now been hit by a general slump in flight bookings since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Joel Hills reported that "Flybe is waiting for the last scheduled flight to land tonight before putting the business into administration.

"The airline is expected to then cease operating.

"A formal announcement is likely to be made in the early hours of tomorrow [Thursday] morning."

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Last year Flybe carried 8 million passengers and 40% of its flights were UK domestic.

It flies the most UK domestic routes between airports outside London and flies to 170 European destinations.

The airline’s biggest operations are at Anglesey, where 100% of flights are operated by Flybe, Southampton, where the airlines controls 95% of flights, as well as regional hubs such as Exeter, Manchester and Birmingham airports.

All of them will be hard-hit if the firm goes into administration.

Flybe serves around 170 destinations and has a major presence at UK airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton.

It flies the most UK domestic routes between airports outside London.

  • ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills says Flybe operations are likely to cease with immediate effect if the airline goes into administration

Blue Islands, a Channel Islands airline which operates under Flybe has said it will continue to operate as normal.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the company said: “Blue Islands services will continue to operate, following the closure of Flybe.

"Passengers with bookings for travel on Blue Islands operated services are advised to check-in on time at the airport."

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Flybe's website has stopped working, with visitors being shown as message stating "This link is no longer live."

It is understood Flybe aircraft at airports including Edinburgh are not being refuelled and engineers are being laid off.

There is expected to be a big knock-on effect among airport staff such as baggage handlers.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, said it would be a "devastating blow" for its members working for Flybe if it goes into administration.

He said: "Prospect will do everything we can to support our members but the truth is the Government has badly let them down.

"The failure to provide the loan that is required as part of a package of rescue measures means the Government has failed in its commitment to every part of the UK."

Nadine Houghton, national officer of the GMB union, said: "These unfolding developments are a tragedy not only for Flybe's loyal workforce, but a domino effect now puts 1,400 jobs in the wider supply chain at immediate risk and threatens the future of vital regional airports.

"The last thing regions crying out for investent need is to see infrastructure that maintains good jobs ripped away."

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: "The collapse of Flybe is disastrous news for passengers and employees alike and will cause real anxiety in many regions throughout the country.

"The Civil Aviation Authority is sadly very well practised, following the collapse of Monarch and Thomas Cook, at responding to airline failure and looking after passengers.

"No doubt they will do that once more."

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel magazine, urged travellers "to ensure they have protections such as airline failure insurance, and to book flights with a credit card so that they can reclaim the cost with their card issuer should an airline go bust."

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson told PA: "Unite members and the entire staff at Flybe will be feeling angry and confused about how and why the airline has been allowed to collapse.

"It is simply outrageous that the Government has not learned the lessons following the collapse of both Monarch and Thomas Cook, that the much promised airline insolvency review has still not materialised."