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Flybe to be rebranded as 'Virgin Connect'

Flybe will be renamed "Virgin Connect" next year to bring its brand in line with that of co-owner Virgin Atlantic.

As part of the move, the UK regional operator's purple colour scheme will be dropped in favour of Virgin's red branding, Flybe states, adding that no existing bookings will be affected by the decision.

"At its heart, Virgin Connect will be passionately focused on becoming Europe's most loved and successful regional airline," says Mark Anderson, chief executive of Flybe parent Connect Airways. "Our customers will naturally expect the same exceptional travel experience as they do with other Virgin-related brands."

The announcement comes after Virgin Atlantic stated in September that Flybe would play an important role in its ambition to launch dozens of new routes from an expanded Heathrow airport, should the decision regarding allocation of slots for a third runway work in its favour.

Virgin Atlantic is a co-owner of Flybe through an investment made in Connect Airways in early 2019.

Regarding those expansion plans, Virgin Atlantic's vice-president of operations Philip Maher told FlightGlobal in late September that "Flybe would be a key connector for us into Manchester and Heathrow".

He added that Virgin Atlantic would "use Flybe to expand our regional footprint into Europe and feed that traffic back into the UK".

Virgin Atlantic's previous attempt to launch a co-branded short-haul feeder unit failed in 2015, when Little Red ceased operations after around three years of operations.

Flybe parent Connect Airways is 40% owned by Cyrus Capital Partners, 30% by Stobart Group and 30% by Virgin Atlantic.

The regional operator has 69 aircraft in service, Cirium fleets data shows, including 54 De Havilland Canada Dash 8s.

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