The transition in management at UK regional carrier Flybe has now been completed after the Exeter-based carrier named Simon Laffin as its new non-executive chairman in succession to Jim French, who steps down after a 23-year career at Flybe.
I first interviewed Jim French in a portacabin at the airline’s Exeter home back in the late 1990s, when he was deputy chief executive for what was then Jersey European Airlines. French became chief executive in 2001, helping the carrier – which by then had rebranded as British European – to restructure and turn round its financial performance.
He rapidly reinvented the regional carrier as Flybe and remained at the helm of the carrier through several ups and downs until this summer when he handed the reins over to former EasyJet executive Saad Hammad. The new management team will continue restructuring efforts, which has seen it announce cuts to its fleet and staff levels earlier this year and end its flight operations at London Gatwick.
We interviewed Jim French, who was recognised as an Airline Strategy Awards winner for regional airline leadership in 2008, on the cover Airline Business in the summer of 2007 – read the interview here for more on Jim French and the Flybe story.