Independent regional carrier British European has re-invented itself as a "new generation of airline", according to managing director Jim French, and aims to combine the best of low-cost and traditional operations.
Just two years after its previous relaunch, at Farnborough 2000 when it changed its name from Jersey European, the Exeter-based airline has renamed itself ‘flybe' and announced a package of changes to its pricing and product. These include discounted one-way tickets, abolition of overbooking and a customer charter stating service standards and compensation for delays.
French says three factors prompted the changes. "The advent of the low-cost carriers combined with the aftermath of 11 September and rapid changes in the commercial application of the Internet – these were the catalysts for change."
"The airline industry is constantly evolving and the low-cost airlines are the latest innovators – the current fashion icons of the industry," he says. "They entered the industry in a blaze of publicity, grasping the opportunity which the Internet offered and rewriting many of the rules of product and pricing that the traditional airlines had burdened themselves with."
French is adamant that flybe is not a low-cost operation. It has adopted elements from that sector, such as aggressive marketing, bold and modern branding, heavily discounted economy ticket prices and no-frills service, while retaining traditional standards in its business and premium economy classes.
"Customers demand more than what the low-cost airlines are delivering, making an opportunity for an airline like us to review our whole business," he says. With no alliances and private ownership, British European could move quickly into a niche.
"We can be the first off the blocks," says French, adding that he believes other airlines will follow flybe's example in six to eight months.
The airline is backing up its move with an aggressive marketing campaign, tripling its spend to $15 million this year.
The cost of renaming has not been disclosed, but French says the majority of his fleet of 31 Bombardier Q400 and BAE 146 aircraft will be given the new livery as they become due for repainting.
In the year ended March 2001, British European returned a deficit of £10.7 million ($16 million), while the undisclosed loss for the year ended March 2002 was even greater.
Source: Flight Daily News