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  • Cuts likely as Virgin shapes Flybe-Stobart combination

Cuts likely as Virgin shapes Flybe-Stobart combination

Virgin Atlantic-backed Connect Airways aims to concentrate on simplifying Flybe’s core network and improving performance following its acquisition of the UK regional carrier.

But Connect Airways’ parties have warned that job losses are “likely” as a result of Flybe’s planned combination with Stobart Air.

Completion of Connect Airways’ acquisition of Flybe is expected in the second quarter of this year.

Connect Airways intends that Flybe will continue acting as an independent operating carrier, with a separate UK air operator’s certificate, under the Virgin Atlantic brand.

The activities of Stobart Air, which will also be contributed to Connect Airways, will continue under its own separate Irish AOC with its current franchise and leasing operations.

While the Flybe network will be simplified, Connect Airways’ parties intend to recognise the “importance of regional connectivity” across the UK and Ireland, they state in a detailed document on the acquisition.

Flybe’s network will be adjusted to improve connectivity with Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul networks at London Heathrow and Manchester.

The document indicates that the route optimisation will “likely” result in a “limited reduction” in the number of aircraft in the Flybe fleet, which currently stands at 76 – a mix of Bombardier Q400s and Embraer E-Jets.

“All flying operations except Stobart Air will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand to the extent possible,” it adds.

“This will be timed to coincide with a refurbishment programme for Flybe’s fleet to provide a seamless customer experience in keeping with Virgin Atlantic’s heritage.

“There will be no change to the brands under which Stobart Air flies today which will continue to be maintained and operated separately.”

Connect Airways’ owners state that the combined Flybe and Stobart Air will have a single management team, but operate independently of Virgin Atlantic with “only support functions having some overlap”. Separate teams will be maintained for Flybe pilots and cabin crew.

Detailed integration plans have yet to be finalised but any “unnecessary overlap” will be reduced or removed, the document states.

“The [parties attach] great importance to the skills and experience of Flybe’s and Stobart Air’s employees but [acknowledge] that the proposals will likely involve some headcount reduction where there are duplicate roles and functions,” it adds.

No decisions have been made on the locations of a headquarters or engineering centre, but the document says a “material presence” will probably be maintained at Flybe’s and Stobart Air’s respective Exeter and Dublin headquarters.

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