Sale of Flybe to Virgin Atlantic-backed group gets the go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 17:36 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:10 09 July 2019

Flybe

Flybe

© Theo Moye. All Rights Reserved

Connect Airways has received clearance from the European Commission to buy Flybe - one of East Devon's biggest employers

Flybe employs around 1,000 people at Exeter Airport, where it is based, and local authorities estimate the airline contributes around £150 million to the area's economy each year.

Connect Airways is a consortium founded by Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Aviation and Cyrus. Following the deal, the three companies will jointly control Flybe, Propius and Stobart Air.

Announcing the EU clearance on Friday (July 5), a statement by Connect Airways said the purchase will provide a'foundation to secure Flybe's long-term future'.

Work is under way to produce an 'exciting new brand and customer proposition' for the airline.

Connect Airways CEO Mark Anderson, who will lead the project, said: "On behalf of Connect Airways, I couldn't be more excited by the opportunity we have to build a strong platform in the UK and to grow our franchise flying operation in Ireland.

"Our whole team is focused on redefining the experience for our customers, as we rediscover the excitement and passion of being Europe's largest regional airline."

Lucien Farrell, chairman of Connect Airways, said under Mr Anderson's leadership 'the company has the opportunity to create a world-class offering for customers, combining a highly successful franchise flying business with Europe's largest regional airline'.

Flybe currently operates 190 routes serving 12 countries from 73 airports.

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: "Mark and his team at Connect Airways have an amazing opportunity ahead of them.

"At Virgin Atlantic we recognise the value of great partnerships, and the network and connectivity benefits they offer customers.

"I'm excited to build on the successful partnership Virgin Atlantic has enjoyed with Flybe - and how we can enhance the experience for our mutual customers, once Connect Airways joins the Virgin family and operates under its new brand."

The European Commission cleared the deal after concerns were raised about potential 'quasi-monopolies' on routes from Birmingham to Amsterdam and Paris due to Air France-KLM's joint control over Virgin Atlantic. Connect Airways agreed to release landing slots in Amsterdam and Paris in order to assuage concerns.

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