The British pilot’s union has requested more detail about the sale of regional carrier Flybe to a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group. Together with Cyrus Capital, the firms are set to create a new company called Connect Airways which will house Flybe, along with Stobart Air and aircraft leasing company, Propius.
The deal has sparked concern from the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) over jobs and terms of employment. While the union says it is “glad the uncertainty over the future of Flybe is starting to clear”, it says it “needs reassurances on how the takeover will progress and whether this will have any effect on pilot jobs”.
In a statement, the union’s general secretary, Brian Strutton said: “BALPA wants to see guarantees of job security and a commitment to a positive future for our members in Flybe. There has been no consultation with us by Flybe so we don’t know whether the deal on offer is good news or not – the jury is out.” He continued: “We urgently seek to talk with all parties to get further information and clarity over what this will mean for pilots and other employees.”
Flybe CEO, Christine Ourmieres-Widener said the airline had suffered from higher fuel costs and currency fluctuations caused by the uncertainty of Brexit, and believed that “by combining to form a larger, stronger, group, we will be better placed to withstand these pressures.”
The trio have agreed that as part of the deal, a £20m bridge loan will be made available to support Flybe’s ongoing working capital and operational requirements. This is alongside an additional £80m which will be invested in the business to support its growth.
Stobart CEO Warwick Brady added: “The board of Stobart Group believes that bringing Stobart Air together with Flybe and partnering with Virgin Atlantic and Cyrus Capital is the best way for us to play an active role in UK regional flying. The combined entity will be a powerful combination with sufficient scale to compete effectively in the UK and European airline markets.”
It is understood that Connect Airways will operate independently to Virgin Atlantic under a single management team, owned 40% by Cyrus Capital Partners, 30% by Stobart Aviation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stobart Group, and 30% by Virgin Atlantic Limited. The Flybe name is expected to disappear as part of the deal, with the new group instead leveraging the Virgin Atlantic brand.