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Flybe revival hopes dashed after Aer Lingus contract miss

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Manchester, United Kingdom - May 8, 2016: Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 twin-engine, medium range, turboprop passenger plane taxiing on Manchester International Airport tarmac.
The collapse of Europe’s largest regional airline put thousands of jobs on the line in March. Photo: Getty

The revival hopes of collapsed airline, Flybe have been dashed after it missed out on a key contract that would allow it to run flights to Ireland.

The Aer Lingus regional franchise was instead handed to Emerald Airlines in a surprise move over the weekend. Emerald Airlines is a new carrier set up by Irish businessman Conor McCarthy.

Flybe was one of many regional carries bidding to snatch the Aer Lingus contract, the Telegraph reports. Loganair and Stobart Air, which had run services on behalf of Aer Lingus for the past decade, were also thought to have been involved.

Ireland’s flag carrier, Aer Lingus is owned by British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L).

The boss of Stobart Air had hoped for a deal to keep running Aer Lingus services for another 10 years, after the carrier was put up for sale by its listed parent, who also owns Southend airport.

The embattled airline was pushed into administration earlier this year as COVID-19 hammered the travel industry. But, even prior to the pandemic, in January 2020 Flybe narrowly avoided administration.

Europe’s largest regional airline officially collapsed in March, after minister rejected a plea for up to £100m ($132m) bailout by its owners including, Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson.

The collapse put more than 2,000 of jobs on the line at the Exeter-based airline.

In October, Thyme Opco — a firm linked to former owners Cyrus Capital — has bought Flybe’s remaining assets and plans to relaunch the purple planes in 2021, although on a smaller scale than before.

It is unclear how many jobs will be rescued under Thyme Opco’s new plans.

READ MORE: Norwegian Air could run out of cash in early 2021

The carrier served 119 routes and flew eight million passengers in its last full year. Flybe’s main business was operating domestic flights connecting UK cities.

It was the biggest airline in terms of the number of flights, at a dozen UK airports, including Aberdeen, Belfast City, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Southampton.

The aviation industry has been hit hard by the pandemic amid grounded flights and global lockdowns.

Many airlines were forced to make difficult decisions in order to save their businesses including cutting jobs to save cash, while trying to navigate the ever-changing landscape of government measures.

Watch: Why job losses have risen despite the economy reopening

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