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Flybe calls in turnaround ace as collapsed regional carrier set to fly again

·2-min read
A Flybe plane (PA Archive)
A Flybe plane (PA Archive)

Flybe today called in an aviation turnaround specialist to pilot a return to the skies following its collapse as an early casualty of the pandemic.

David Pflieger, who has held executive roles at seven carriers from Fiji Airways to US giant Delta, has been appointed CEO of the regional airline which fell into administration in March 2020.

Flybe was bought for a nominal sum by global private equity firm Cyrus Capital last year in the first ever rescue of a British airline from insolvency.

Prior to its sudden collapse, it was Europe’s biggest regional carrier, taking around 8 million passengers a year between 81 UK and European airports with 2,500 employees.

The reborn company - nick-named Flybe 2.0 - is in talks with airports over routes and slots: initial operations will not be on the same scale and are likely to be domestic only. There is no word yet on jobs.

Pflieger said: “The last 12 months have been intensely busy for all of us but it has been very rewarding to know that we are soon going to launch a new, better, and stronger company.”

The announcement came as Heathrow posted its first full quarter of traffic growth since 2019.

Passenger numbers are at 28% and cargo 90% of pre-pandemic levels, but are not expected to fully recover until 2026.

The UK’s biggest airport reduced losses in the first nine months of the year by 8.8% — but is still bleeding £3 million a day.

CEO John Holland-Kaye said the industry was on the “cusp of a recovery” but called for acceleration to the global roll-out of vaccines to end the need for testing.

He also wants a “fair” settlement on fees to reward long-suffering shareholders.

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