A report from Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) has revealed that UK low-fare carrier Flybe has secured slot allocations to operate on five domestic air routes from London City from September this year, although neither the airline nor airport would confirm the information.
The London City Airport start of season report for summer 2014 from ACL, an independent companyresponsible for data collection, schedules facilitation and slot allocation at 26 airports in the UK and the EU, plus Dubai International and Al Maktoum International airports in Dubai, shows a total allocation of 1,298 air transport movements to Flybe. This, it claims would represent 101,244 seats, suggesting the use of 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8Q-400s.
A spokesperson for London City Airport told The HUB: "London City Airport is always talking to airlines about new route opportunities, but doesn’t comment on those discussions or any opportunities that may be under discussion."
The report has been released just as Flybe begins to reduce its London-based operations following the sale of its Gatwick Airport slots to easyJet, although it will continue to operate a limited schedule from the airport as well as a new London Stansted – Dundee link through its franchise partner Loganair. It also announced earlier this week it would establish a base at London Southend through a franchise partnership with Stobart Air (formerly Aer Arann) serving markets across Benelux and Northern Europe.
Under its restructuring, which has seen a number of loss-making routes already cut from its network, Flybe is now looking at two key business areas for development. These are as a regional branded airline, providing scheduled services connecting passengers travelling in the regions, both on business and visiting friends and relatives, to each other and to international carriers at metropolitan airports; and as a regional “white label” provider, where Flybe provides crew under contract on a maintained and insured aircraft belonging to Flybe but operated on behalf of a third party airline (as it currently does for Finnair in Finland and Brussels Airlines in Belgium).
The expansion of Flybe-branded scheduled operations will primarily involve the development of new routes and bases within the UK, and are likely to occur over a 12 to 24 month timeframe. Following completion of the route rationalisation strategy, the airline plans to open a number of new routes in the next two years and is working with a number of regional airports. The airline announced last month that it had identified nine routes from its New Route Planning Selection Model, but revealed that an additional ten aircraft will be required in order to service these identified routes.
It would appear that London City could be one of the new bases and the links identified by the ACL report suggest that new services could commence to Belfast City, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey and Newquay later this year. However, as the report notes: “As Flybe operations due to begin in September but not on sale, routes are indicative only.”
Flybe previously served London City Airport while it was still operating under the British European brand but ended operations there in January 2005 when it closed its remaining route to Isle of Man. An analysis of data from OAG Schedules Analyser for the past ten years shows no airlines have operated direct air services from London City to Inverness and Newquay, while Belfast City only saw a limited operation by Air France partner CityJet between April 2007 and June 2008. Both Isle of Man and Jersey are currently served from the airport with flights by British Airways and Channel Islands’ carrier Blue Islands, respectively.
The network changes from Flybe are part of a new strategy that also includes a major brand refresh and the launch of a reinvigorated product and service offering dubbed 'Flybe Purple', which the carrier says brings to life its core business of time-saving, punctual travel with the introduction of a vibrant, dynamic modern ‘look and feel’. The airline is also adopting an interesting 60:60 guarantee that promises customers if a flight arrives more than 60 minutes late at its destination due to a delay within Flybe’s control, they will qualify for a £60 voucher towards their next flight as long as they book within 60 days.
As part of the brand refresh, an eye-catching purple Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 , the Spirit of Liberum, will take to the skies in special commemorative livery. It will offer an improved on-board experience, feature the introduction of stylish purple crew uniforms and purple mood lighting as well as offering daily on-board winners, deplaning gifts and an on-time musical celebration, according to the carrier.