Flybe bosses have been engaged in talks with the Government in a bid to save the airline, but there are fears it could collapse.

An industry expert has warned that Flybe going under would have a “significant impact” on several UK airports which rely on the carrier for a large chunk of their business.

John Strickland said: “At a market level, it doesn’t look like very much. But if you look at the regions (Flybe serves), it’s dramatic.”

He added that he believes there is unlikely to be “a political will to get involved” in offering financial support, as no taxpayers’ money was given to stop Thomas Cook or Monarch from collapsing.

Flybe is Europe’s largest regional carrier, flying around eight million passengers a year to 170 destinations across the continent.

It employs around 2,000 people and operates most domestic routes between airports outside London, including connections between Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

If Flybe goes belly up, it won’t just be direct employees at risk, but 1,400 supply chain jobs as well. Our economy is tanking. The last thing we need is an airline to go under –especially one which provides a vital public service in some parts of the country. If Government is serious about infrastructure investment in the regions, it must step in and protect what already exists.

Nadine Houghton, GMB Union

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan has expressed concern for Flybe’s future.

“This is very worrying news which follows a negative downturn with the loss of Thomas Cook late last year,” he said.

“I feel for all of the staff who are no doubt in anxiety at this news.”

He added: “Flybe flies to 14 destinations from Belfast City Airport and, if these flights are removed, this would be a huge blow to the airport and the city in general.

“I hope this is a priority for the new Executive at Stormont to support crisis talks with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Transport in London.”

A Flybe spokesperson said: “Flybe continues to focus on providing great service and connectivity for our customers, to ensure that they can continue to travel as planned.

“We don’t comment on rumour or speculation.”

The Exeter-based carrier was bought by a consortium consisting of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital in February 2019 following poor financial results.

The consortium, known as Connect Airways, paid just £2.2m for Flybe’s assets, but pledged to pump tens of millions of pounds into the loss-making airline to turn it around.

The holding of rescue talks with the Government indicates the financing requirements have become greater than expected.