Flybe ‘clearly more to do’ after bookings lift

FLYBE has been cheered by improved summer demand despite the regional airline’s failure to make a profit in its most recent financial year.

CEO Saad Hammad said most legacy issues had been tackled. Picture: Contributed

The carrier, which flies 67 planes on 199 routes across 14 countries, warned in January that it would only break even in the year to 31 March, compared with earlier City forecasts for a profit of about £9 million.

Exeter-based Flybe reiterated that break-even target yesterday but also said it had been encouraged by recent trading after a 9 per cent rise in UK passenger revenues compared with a year earlier.

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It has increased capacity by 13 per cent with the launch of new routes for this summer, including nine from its new base in Bournemouth and three domestic routes from London Stansted.

The company also said that 31 per cent of capacity has already been sold for this summer. It is one year into a three-year turn-around plan that has seen it cut more than 1,000 jobs and unprofitable routes after seeing passenger numbers fall in the wake of the financial crisis.

Last June the carrier posted a pre-tax profit of £8.1m, its first in four years. But this swung back to a £15.6m half-year loss by November due to one-off costs and a charge related to the exit from its loss-making joint venture, Flybe Finland. It also has contracts on a number of unwanted jets it wants to exit.

The airline said it had recently launched six new routes from London City airport, with the biggest of them reaching load factors of 70 per cent just five months after they had been introduced.

It added that it had also signed a six-year commercial agreement to fly planes for SAS, Scandinavia’s largest carrier.

Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad said: “These results demonstrate that we are beginning to deliver on the company’s growth opportunities and that we’ve tackled the majority of the company’s legacy issues. There is clearly more to do.”

The group also recently launched a “hop-on, hop-off” service in October linking Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Jersey.