Regional airline Flybe has unveiled plans to pull out of Gatwick airport by selling its 25 pairs of landing and departure slots to EasyJet for £20 million.
The carrier, headed by Scots-born chairman and chief executive Jim French, currently operates seven routes into Gatwick, including from Inverness, Belfast and Newastle. It flew 500,000 passengers out of the airport in the year to March, but said it had decided to pull out following a sharp increase in charges.
Flybe said: “The decision to sell the slots follows a discriminatory pricing regime applied by the airport’s owners to the operators of smaller, regional aircraft which, in Flybe’s case, has resulted in a 102 per cent increase in charges over the last five years.
“It is the view of the board that the increase in charges, combined with the penalistic levels of air passenger duty imposed on UK domestic airlines by successive governments, have resulted in Flybe’s services to and from Gatwick becoming unsustainable in the long term.”
Under the deal with EasyJet, which is expected to be completed in July, Flybe will continue to operate the routes until March 2014.
EasyJet said: “The slots will transfer from summer 2014 and will allow EasyJet to provide additional frequencies on popular existing routes from Gatwick as well as add new destinations across the UK and Europe.”
Flybe also announced today that its headcount has fallen by 22 per cent to 2,140 under a turnaround plan aimed at saving £30m a year. In addition, pilots have agreed a 5 per cent salary reduction in return for more time off, and the delivery of 16 Embraer E175 aircraft has been pushed back until to 2017 to 2019.