Flybe shoulders storm costs but says summer reservations 'encouraging'
UK regional carrier Flybe expects to be hit with around £4m (€4.5m) in lost revenue and associated costs due to the 'Beast from the East' that dumped snow across the UK and Ireland at the end of February.
The airline, headed by former CityJet boss Christine Ourmieres-Widener, had to cancel 994 flights due to weather in its fourth quarter, compared to 372 flight cancellations in its fourth quarter last year.
"Coming so late in the financial year means that this added loss will be reflected in our full year financial results," according to Flybe.
Last month, Flybe rejected a takeover approach from UK transport and energy group Stobart, whose Dublin-based Stobart Air unit operates the Aer Lingus Regional service under a franchise arrangement.
Flybe insisted yesterday that its turnaround was continuing, with a further improvement in load factors as it reduces capacity.
Load factors were up by 6.8 percentage points, to 73.5pc, in its fourth quarter.
As a result, estimated passenger revenue per seat was 9pc higher at £50.84.
Passenger numbers rose by 3.7pc, even though capacity was reduced by 6pc.
"The Flybe strategy as set out in our business plan to reduce the fleet size is delivering higher load factors and revenue per seat," Ms Ourmieres-Widener said.
"The drive to reduce costs is continuing, given added impetus by the rise in fuel prices and lower value of sterling.
Despite these headwinds, the foundations are being put in place to strengthen the business and we remain confident that our strategy will continue to improve performance as we go into the new financial year."
At the end of March, Flybe had returned five of the planned six end-of-lease aircraft, with the final one to be returned in early April.
At the financial year end, Flybe will have a total fleet size of 80 aircraft, which will fall to 79 once the final hand back is completed.
In March 2017, the airline had 83 aircraft.
The carrier said that very early indications of its summer trading were "encouraging," with an estimated 7.5pc increase in passenger revenue per seat offsetting an expected 7.9pc decrease in capacity.
In addition, the airline said that to-date it had sold just over one fifth of its first-half capacity, up 1pc on the capacity sold at the same time last year.
"Our strategy to reduce capacity to focus on profitable flying will continue into the new financial year," Ms Ourmieres-Widener said.