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Flybe's hopes of returning to the skies in doubt

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Suban Abdulla
·2-min read
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Flybe aircraft are pictured on the tarmac at Exeter airport in Exeter, south-west England on March 5, 2020, following the news that the airline had collapsed into bankruptcy. - British regional airline Flybe crashed into bankruptcy Thursday after the deadly coronavirus proved to be the final nail in its coffin. The biggest operator of UK domestic flights said it has sunk into administration -- a last-ditch process aimed at salvaging at least some of the company. (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK / AFP) (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images)
Flybe was pushed into administration in March last year as COVID-19 hammered the travel industry. But, even prior to the pandemic, in January 2020 Flybe narrowly avoided administration. Photo: Geoff Caddick / AFP via Getty Images

The return of budget airline Flybe could be in the balance, after the resignation of a hedge fund manager who was driving the revival of the collapsed business.

Lucien Farrell of Cyrus Capital has quit his role as director of the company Thyme Opco, according to official filings seen by the Telegraph.

Farrell departure last week comes after a hearing on 26 February between regulator Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), administrators EY and law firm Freshfields.

EY said that take-off and landing slots worth tens of millions of pounds each should be handed over to Thyme Opco, with the company also applying for an operating licence at the hearing. But, according to industry insiders the aviation watchdog delayed the part of the hearing relating to the transfer of of the slots after failing to reach a decision.

Thyme Opco — a firm linked to former owners Cyrus Capital — bought Flybe’s remaining assets in October from administrators EY last year.

It had plans to relaunch the purple planes in 2021, although on a smaller scale than before. The company said it wanted to "restore essential regional connectivity in the UK, and contribute to the recovery of a vital part of the country’s economy."

Flybe was pushed into administration in March last 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 after minister rejected a plea for up to £100m ($139m) 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.

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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.

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