Last night, Sky News began reporting that Virgin Atlantic was eyeing up a takeover bid struggling carrier Flybe.
And I’m going to be blunt – this has shades of awful in it.
It’s about the networks. And how they hardly touch each other
Why? Virgin Atlantic struggled with its Little Red subsidiary, which shuttered three years ago with embarrassing load factors of 37.6% at some points. As for the rest of the FlyBe network, I’m struggling to see how they will gain feed from the UK Domestic/European Regional Network to its Long Haul Network .
- Heathrow has connectivity to Aberdeen and Edinburgh currently. Hardly a massive network.
- Gatwick has Newquay up until March, when the route transfers to Heathrow (operated under a Public Service Obligation)
- London City mostly has UK Domestic connectivity options, with European services to Amsterdam and Düsseldorf
- Birmingham has no attachment to the Virgin Long haul network, and instead is aimed at regional traffic.
- Manchester has some Virgin Atlantic and Delta traffic, and could be used to harness traffic of the European network
- Edinburgh has no onward Virgin capacity (although there are Delta operations)
- Glasgow has limited seasonal Virgin and Delta services, but otherwise a UK Domestic network
- Belfast City has connectivity across the regions, with connectivity to London City Airport
As you can see, I can’t see the logic how this will all merge together, and how Virgin Atlantic will make any money from this – if they take FlyBe over. The network models touch each other in the lightest possible sense at Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh.
If they’re in it for Heathrow Slots…
If Virgin Atlantic are just chasing down the London Heathrow slots that FlyBe has (which in effect are the “remedy slots” that British Airways had to give up to take over British Midland), it’s going to be a horrible waste of money – unless those slots are timed perfectly.
And I doubt they are.
I’m struggling here. Really Struggling.
Overall, if Virgin Atlantic buy Flybe – they could be the saviour of regional flying in the UK if they approach it with a hard business hat on.
But with the Low Cost Carriers eating Flybe from the bottom (lets not forget EasyJet, Eurowings and Ryanair will happily pounce on routes if the numbers work), and British Airways holding the most useful slots at Heathrow at the top- not to mention the increased competition from Air France-KLM and Lufthansa Group – there would need to be some major restructuring of the FlyBe network to ensure regional feed to ensure its sustainable, whilst delivering passengers onward to Virgin Atlantic or Delta networks.
And I’m really struggling to see this in right now.
Maybe I’m totally wrong. Maybe with Delta’s guidance, Virgin Atlantic could re-shape Flybe into something both competitive and useful at the same time.
But I doubt it.
Welcome to Economy Class and Beyond – Your no-nonsense guide to network news, honest reviews, with in-depth coverage, unique research as well as the humour and madness as I only know how to deliver.