UK airline Flybe exploring opportunities with Dublin-based Stobart Air
Flybe boss Christine Ourmieres-Widener said the airline – billed as the UK’s largest regional carrier – has no need to secure an alternative air operator’s certificate (AOC) as it faces into a post-Brexit environment.
The former CityJet CEO also said that Flybe is “still working” on some opportunities with franchise partner Stobart Air, which also operates the Aer Lingus Regional service.
In an interview today with the Irish Independent, Ms Ourmieres-Widener said that Flybe has no need for an additional AOC because it does not operate intra-EU flights outside the UK.
The airline has a franchise agreement with Dublin-based Stobart Air, which already operates some routes on behalf of Flybe under a wet lease arrangement, where Stobart supplies the aircraft and crew and flies in Flybe livery.
Last December, after Stobart Air pulled the plug on a planned takeover by CityJet, Stobart Air and Flybe announced that they had inked an agreement that will see Stobart launch 12 routes this summer from London Southend Airport under the Flybe brand. The airport is owned by the Stobart group.
Those Flybe routes are across Europe, to destinations such as Lyons, Budapest, Prague and Vienna.
Stobart is also set to relaunch a Flybe service between Dublin and Southend this October. Ms Ourmieres-Widener declined to comment on the plan, however. Flybe already operates a number of services to Dublin from the UK.
From the summer, Stobart Air will be headed by Warwick Brady, a former Easyjet executive who was once in the frame to take over as Aer Lingus chief executive when former CEO Christoph Mueller announced his departure in 2014.
“It was really refreshing to meet Warwick and it’s very interesting to work with him,” said the Flybe boss, who started with the airline earlier this year.
She said that the pair have discussed network opportunities and “finding the right aircraft for the right route”.
“So far, we are working how we can move our partnership from where we are today. It’s a work in progress. They want to grow. We’re still working on opportunities and finalising the network.”
Earlier this month, Flybe placed two of its Embraer 195 jets with Stobart Air, which uses turboprop ATR aircraft to operate its Aer Lingus Regional service.
Ms Ourmieres-Widener said the operational risk remains with Stobart Air, but that Flybe needs to ensure it has a strong IT platform in order for the franchise to work optimally.
Flybe, which releases full-year results next month, expects to post a small loss for the last financial year due to the impact of poor weather, fare competition and air traffic control strikes.