Flybe names new chief executive ahead of Heathrow launch

Christine Ourmieres-Widener becomes Flybe chief executive on 16 January. Picture: Contributed
Christine Ourmieres-Widener becomes Flybe chief executive on 16 January. Picture: Contributed
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Flybe has named Christine Ourmieres-Widener as its new chief executive as it prepares to launch its first flights between Scotland and Heathrow.

Ourmieres-Widener, a former senior executive at Air France and previously boss at CityJet, will take up her new role on 16 January.

Her appointment comes after previous Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad left by “mutual agreement” in October following more than three years with the group.

READ MORE: Saad Hammad departs as chief executive of Flybe

Simon Laffin assumed the role of executive chairman after Hammad’s departure, but will revert back to a non-executive role when Ourmieres-Widener joins the group.

Laffin said: “We are delighted that Christine is joining Flybe at what is a very exciting time for the company, as we transition to become an increasingly customer-driven business.

“Christine brings extensive experience of aviation and travel, as well as deep knowledge of the UK regional aviation market, which will be extremely valuable to Flybe.”

Ourmieres-Widener’s arrival was announced as Flybe confirmed it was heading to London Heathrow for the first time next year, as revealed by The Scotsman earlier this month.

READ MORE: Flybe to launch new Heathrow flights from Aberdeen and Edinburgh

The airline will operate more than 40 scheduled flights a week from Aberdeen and Edinburgh, complementing its existing routes to London City from the two airports.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Improving the connections into Heathrow from all around the UK will be vital in helping to secure the economic future of communities in every corner of the nation.

“More airlines flying routes to Scottish airports means more flights, more competition and choice for families, and more visitors to Scotland.”

The move was welcomed by economy secretary Keith Brown, who said the new flights were “encouraging evidence that the reduced passenger charges we pushed for, and which are covered in our memorandum of understanding with Heathrow Airport, are starting to have a real impact on services”.

Flybe has struggled financially in recent years, booking a £35.6 million loss in 2015 before swinging to a £2.7m profit this year.

Ourmieres-Widener has a lengthy career in the aviation and travel sectors, having first started in the maintenance department of Air France before working her way up to become the airline’s UK and Ireland general manager and later vice president in New York.

She was chief executive of CityJet between 2010 and 2015 and has since acted as chief global sales officer for American Express Global Business Travel.

She joins Flybe on a £400,000 annual salary, with an annual bonus worth up to £400,000, as well as potential long-term incentive scheme shares.

Flybe is also paying £120,000 for Ourmieres-Widener and her family to relocate from New York.

Ourmieres-Widener said: “I am very excited to be joining Flybe and being able to bring my industry experience and passion to the business.

“I look forward to working with the board and the entire team to continue Flybe’s progression to becoming a more customer-focused business, aided by the greater control the airline now has over its future fleet size.”

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