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Mr A Tis 5th Sep 2021 10:06

There isn't even a daily service between MAN -SOU, Eastern are only operating 5 days a week (no Tue & Wed flights).
Between Eastern (Sou-MAN) & Blue Island (Ext-MAN) I have had 5 flights cancelled over the last couple of months.
With such unreliability I'm no longer booking these flights, but using the train that take insanely long travel times & often ridiculous pricing.
Without any reliability of at least a daily service between these points, the demand is never going to recover. To go from 6 x Dash 8s a day to 5 ATRs a week is a heck of a drop even when C19 is taken into account & with the poor ground transportation on offer. I don't know what the "optimum" offering should be, but Eastern & Blue Island haven't found it.

OzzyOzBorn 5th Sep 2021 16:35

Mr A Tis ... You elaborate my point with great eloquence. There remains ample opportunity for additional frequencies on core domestic commuter routes whether provided by FlyBe 2.0 or any alternative carrier.

SWBKCB 5th Sep 2021 16:39


I have had 5 flights cancelled over the last couple of months.
Surely that depends on the reason for flights being cancelled - if it is lack of demand, should they be putting more flights on to stimulate demand by increasing flexibility or is that chucking good money after bad? I think we are still some way from being able to draw conclusions on what the market is going to be like

Albert Hall 5th Sep 2021 17:30

I think it is indeed much too early.


You elaborate my point with great eloquence. There remains ample opportunity for additional frequencies on core domestic commuter routes whether provided by FlyBe 2.0 or any alternative carrier.
I don't think they do! I could be mistaken, but I thought both Eastern and Blue Islands had double-daily services on SOU-MAN and EXT-MAN on sale for September until fairly recently. If my memory is right, the point that they've deferred frequency increases to a business schedule means that they don't see the demand coming through to support it. Equally if another airline thought there was a gap on the likes of SOU-MAN, I am sure that Loganair (not normally slow in having a pop at Eastern) would be stepping in - and they are not. That must surely tell you something.

Reading between the lines on all of this says that the market is not back at this stage to support higher frequencies. Whether and when it will return is a question that's impossible to answer.

OzzyOzBorn 5th Sep 2021 23:13

With respect, your timeframe presumes that we discuss the immediate term. That is not the premise that I am highlighting. Any added capacity coming from FlyBe 2.0 in particular (if it transpires) must be considered over a period of many months at least. We are in a time of considerable uncertainty, with fears widely expressed that C-19 restrictions could be ramped up again over the coming Winter months. In this environment, air transport generally will remain depressed. Airlines will be justifiably reluctant to take on risk at a time like this. Interline isn't back in any meaningful way. Businesses remain wary of liability if employees fall sick in the course of a work-related trip. Winter is the low-season for leisure travel at the best of times, barring a short window either side of Christmas and New Year. Airlines across all sectors had placed speculative capacity on sale for the season ahead in the hope that Covid restrictions would be a thing of the past. They aren't. And the mood music from Whitehall suggests that barriers to travel will remain in place until Easter 2022 at the earliest. But the implications of that do not define the long-term market potential of specific inter-regional routes once the pandemic is deemed to have passed. The whole industry is in survival mode in the immediate term, not just the regional carriers.

The question raised was whether the market for inter-regional air travel can absorb a new entrant carrier such as FlyBe 2.0. My contention is that the opportunity is there, because those core routes once flown by legacy FlyBe have been adopted on a token basis only at this point. Carriers have staked their claim, so to speak. Frequency increases proposed by carriers such as Loganair, Eastern and Blue Islands have not been sustained because we're still in the thick of 'Covidworld' in the short term, not because the public will never want to fly again. First, we must restore confidence in air travel generally - that is likely to be a tough ask during this Winter at least. Eastern and Blue Islands et al are absolutely right to sidestep the risk of committing to expansion of fleet and crew until this uncertain phase passes.

Looking at our examples of SOU-MAN and EXT-MAN again, a chicken-and-egg situation afflicted the Summer months. The sustained re-emergence of inter-regional business travel requires a day return capability which hasn't yet been restored. So demand remains depressed by default, even during the most optimistic weeks of Summer. And connecting opportunities have been annihilated, with overseas flights thwarted by travel bans, time-consuming document inspections and endless uncertainty. Though fares offered have been high on the few services which have been operating between SOU/EXT - MAN. When discussing ANY route proposition, we must consider the environment whilst C-19 continues to dominate everything quite seperately from "normal" latent demand post-covid. And yes, the transition period between the two will be gradual requiring weeks and months, the rebound will not be instantaneous.

But the collapse of legacy FlyBe took some 70+ aircraft out of the market. Stobart followed with a further 18 or so. Eastern and Blue Islands are tiny by comparison. They can only scrape the surface of this opportunity unless they are prepared to multiply in size in the face of the worst short-term market conditions the industry has ever seen. Nobody could recommend such a course. Meanwhile, a new entrant such as FlyBe 2.0 (or whoever) enjoys the advantage of choosing the opportune moment to enter the fray, and the rate at which they add capacity. Caution makes sense for all until C-19 travel restrictions are firmly in the rear view mirror. But don't presume that inter-regional routes which sustained healthy demand pre-covid have been killed off forever. Airlines must plan for life after Covid. The "gap in the market" which airlines may perceive is strictly a prize for after the lifting of government restrictions beyond fear of sudden reimposition.

anothertyke 6th Sep 2021 09:40

You may be right Ozzy. But that depends on the theory that there was a profitable core thin man in a well managed FlyBe 1 if only it could be successfully identified. The alternative proposition is that in an average year, FlyBe had a set of activities all of which would cover variable costs and make a positive contribution, but the sum just didn't add up to coverage of indirect costs.

Suppose you are right that the best bits were the secondary routes ( Soton-Manchester, Leeds-Belfast etc) with a good proportion of business traffic willing to pay full whack for a day return or a next day return. Suppose you can get four decent revenue sectors five days a week out of a plane. That is unlikely to be enough on its own. You have to find something else to make a contribution between 10 and 4. My reading of FlyBe 1 is that, leaving aside the cost side issues, they struggled to identify the profitable core. Perhaps that suggests there wasn't one?

BACsuperVC10 6th Sep 2021 09:49

I have business in Exeter, and live in the NW, but not Manchester. I used to use Flybe from MAN to EXT, but switched to the train, as I found it in the end more convenient using my local station than trying to reach Manchester Airport and get through T3 security in the morning rush hour. I have to say whilst using this air route, I never found it particularly busy.

OzzyOzBorn 6th Sep 2021 17:06

I certainly wouldn't begin to advocate replication of the FlyBe 1.0 model. But the notion that every aspect of their business was some kind of basket case incapable of ever achieving profitability is for the birds. There are inter-regional city-pairs which offer opportunity once C-19 restrictions are behind us. But carriers such as Blue Islands, operating five ATR's on an existing network which is right-sized for their business, can only expand to meet the scale of new opportunity by taking on an existential risk in terms of recruiting more staff and significantly expanding their fleet. That would be most unwise in the current climate - I certainly wouldn't recommend it. Likewise Eastern: on Jethro's fleet-size looks like 26 aircraft, though many of these appear to be inactive low-capacity JS41's. Loganair's fleet is larger but is generally kept busy servicing the company's primary role in Scotland along with afew other routes in the portfolio where they make sense. Aurigny is understandably Channel Islands focused. None of these carriers can afford to carry fat ... they don't generally have staff idling about with nothing to do or aircraft sitting around with no established purpose. Yes, several aircraft are grounded by Covid in the medium-term, but even the leanest and best-run businesses couldn't envisage the business environment which has transpired there.

But when covid-think no longer dominates all decisions, route opportunities are there in the regional space. Existing carriers don't have sufficient fleet or staff on their books to take full advantage when the time comes, so there will be space for new entrant carrier(s) or incremental expansion by incumbents. For the latter, cautious expansion would likely be seen as the wisest course: a sudden doubling in fleet size, for example, would be a reckless and existential gamble. But between FlyBe and Stobart, around 90 mid-sized regional aircraft have exited the British Isles market. That is far too many. Emerald is expected to backfill some of these. We can't expect to see 90 aircraft added back in to the market, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to gradually add half of that number. Which is probably beyond the scope of the small number of storm-battered incumbents still standing in the space. So new names will likely be part of the sector's future. Will FlyBe 2.0 be one of these? Who knows ... but I wish them luck in their quest.

OzzyOzBorn 6th Sep 2021 17:26

BACsuperVC10: I completely respect your personal travel choices. Each to their own. But your posting record makes clear your deep dislike of all things Manchester Airport, and your passionate advocacy for Liverpool Airport. That is fine, but it does mean that you are unrepresentative of typical customers across the NW. For you, there is added value in avoiding use of MAN at all costs (and fair enough if that is your preference). But others will prioritise journey cost, duration, and the likelihood of disruption. In my experience, Cross-Country rail services are extraordinarily expensive, highly prone to delays and journey curtailments, and time-consuming even in ideal conditions. FlyBe MAN-EXT was always a great option for me, and the route supported upto four Q400's per day - so there must have been a reasonable level of demand there. If not, even half of that frequency (morning and evening) allows for a full business day at destination and implies greater concentration of loadings. Twice daily on weekdays would seem to be the best compromise solution to serve but not saturate the market as we gradually re-emerge from Covidworld. Having said all that, I don't recall the consistently lightly-loaded flights which you allude to when I used the original FlyBe services. Perhaps I used peak flights?

BACsuperVC10 6th Sep 2021 21:20

I use Liverpool Airport more than Manchester because its so much easier to transit through, I fly often ( pre covid ) so I really have given both airports a good try over the years, but that really has nothing to do with getting to Exeter . I have been travelling to Exeter for years now and used to always fly. I moved to rail because from a time point of view there was no advantage in flying and I found with split tickets I could save money. After I did the trip walking to my local station, it really worked out better

Sharklet_321 7th Sep 2021 12:55

OzzyOzBorn

An awful lot of self-indulgent waffle when the reality is much simpler. Do you honestly think Blue Islands, Eastern and Loganair don't want/aren't capable of doing double daily on these specific few routes? The current demand is not there to sustain it. If this is indeed the entire basis of the business plan for a Flybe 2.0 then it's doomed before its even begun. Short-haul business travel and domestic travel will not rebound to the same levels as before - 1) Investment is being made in businesses to accommodate more remote activities 2) environmentally this is not acceptable anymore. Not to mention the countless suppliers and public who were burned badly by the demise of Flybe 1.0 and will expect to be compensated by any re-emergence of the same organisation - these people won't give a toss as to whether legally it is the same company or not.

Less talk, more action please.

The Nutts Mutts 7th Sep 2021 13:51

Been reading with interest. My own perception is based on what I've seen at SOU- I believe some routes can sustain frequencies greater than those currently on offer.
Using Eastern as an example, their SOU-BHD route has been steadily building and now has strong loads at healthy fares and full or almost-full aircraft on the peak travelling days.
And yet, the date when it goes double-daily keeps getting pushed back by a month at a time.
Given that it's the same couple of crews flying most days, my impression is that it's a combination of lack of crews as Ozzy alluded to, with the current health and economic environment contributing but not solely responsible for the slow ramp-up of flights.
SOU-MAN has lower loads than SOU-BHD, but given the frequency and cost of flights I don't find this surprising, and even then they're probably averaging about 40-50% full, which seems to be a standard Eastern load. I've got no doubt that with cheaper fares and higher frequencies we'd be seeing much busier flights.
SOU-DUB loads are building steadily too.

cavokblues 7th Sep 2021 14:37

I guess it's a classic chicken and egg situation. Can a new Flybe stimulate demand on some of its previous more successful routes in a very unusual post Covid environment?

I think it is important to remember any new Flybe will be considerably smaller than the old company. They had no control over their fleet size during the last few years of their previous incarnation so may have operated several rotations just to keep the aircraft busy in the hope of making some money rather than being sat on the ground making nothing whatsoever.

I think its safe to say the likes of Exeter - Manchester and SOU - MAN will not be large enough to sustain two carriers. And at BHX they will be up against easyJet on a few of their other more successful routes flights and I suspect easyJet may stay on the likes of BHX - EDI/GLA for a while yet.

I'm genuinely fascinated to see what their strategy will be.

Sioltach Dubh Glas 7th Sep 2021 15:01

Based on the CAA's July data, and flight frequency from FR24 the average load factor on MAN-SOU was just over 27pc.

OzzyOzBorn 7th Sep 2021 15:23

Sharklet_321 - Why the condescending attitude? This is a discussion forum and we're here to discuss. Perhaps you should learn to comprehend the "waffle" which others have written before lashing out. I made a very clear distinction between current demand and post-covid demand. The difference between these two economic environments was clearly differentiated by me, alongside recognition of the transition period between the two. With reference to potential start-up carriers such as FlyBe 2.0, post-covid demand will be key. Since you instantly launch into claims about "current demand", I can only presume that you didn't read and absorb what I wrote. Take a look back: I don't wish to annoy more attentive readers with repetition.

On to your points. I have outlined what the incumbent regional carriers are capable of doing. Blue Islands have four ATR72's and one ATR42. FlyBe had 70+ aircraft; a fleet size some 14x larger, and BCI's fleet wasn't lying idle (pre-covid) just waiting for new route opportunities. Eastern have around 26 aircraft, though many of these are long-term grounded. Fifteen of these are JS41's with only around 29 seats each. Loganair has a larger fleet numerically, but many of it's aircraft are dedicated to Highlands and Islands flying. So NO - these carriers can only step up to any meaningful degree on a small selection of routes. They could invest in expansion, but I outlined why they need to be cautious about that whilst Covid still dominates thinking. Furthermore, demand for day return business travel is not yet known: the option has not been offered on the example routes which I cited so we cannot yet know how much take up there will be when the time comes. What we do know is that fares on the services which are offered are extremely high which is usually a sign of healthy yield. As I explained, demand does not need to rebound all the way back to 2019 levels to make sense: a twice daily service on a route which formerly operated six times daily with decent numbers is a perfectly reasonable proposition.

Your point about what is environmentally acceptable is purely subjective. Anti-carbon zealots will applaud you; climate rationalists will not. That is a debate for elsewhere. But your comment on this is an opinion, not a definitive fact.

I have every sympathy with those who suffer financial loss when any company fails. I myself had to expend considerable time and effort chasing up bank chargebacks when FlyBe failed - it wasn't fun, but employees suffered far more than I did. My priority is to see as many of those employees as possible taken back on by other businesses in the space. Your resentment suggests that you would be content to see many left on the scrapheap. I respectfully disagree with you.

Skipness One Foxtrot 7th Sep 2021 15:49

I think one of the emotions at work here is that no one loved flybe. Many people have fond memories of Dan Air, BCAL, British Midland et al. Even today people are invested in BA or Virgin, Loganair has a long and proud history but flybe just don't have any cache of that nature. Also, a lot of people remember flybe going hell for leather after Loganair after the end of the franchise in Scottish markets where both parties knew there was only room for one. There's no love lost professionally either.

Mr A Tis 7th Sep 2021 16:03

Domestic travel has never been busier- with so many people staying in the UK, there probably has never been a better time to stimulate domestic air travel where trains aren't suitable.
As has been pointed out, SOU-BHD with Eastern has been building up as it actually operates everyday.
Every month, I keep booking Eastern MAN-SOU-MAN with their twice daily advertised offering, but at the end of every month they revise the next month to a 5 a week service. This means paying higher fares for non advance rail tickets, on trains that take forever to get anywhere (Cross Country).
The Man/SOU always seems to be cancelled Tue & Wed, the same days that SOU-LBA gets cancelled. Maybe this is more a crewing issue ? T3 don't seem to want to fly on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.
If I knew a month in advance what day the service operates, I might book it, but I'm always promised non existent services.
On that model, Eastern will never build up demand. Based on my experiences, I'm not even attempting further bookings with Eastern now.
So, I would welcome a Flybe 2.0 that at least make an effort to plug gaps & stimulate demand. Not at previous levels obviously, but I cant believe the 6 x Dash8s a day on MAN\SOU demand have completely evaporated to zero.

Many have poo poo'd Loganair & easy on the MAN-NQY route, but easy are keeping the route in 2022. BMI Baby ran the service many moons ago & were always full.
If you factor in baggage fees, Loganair are often cheaper than easy.
Domestic air travel isn't dead, far from it, until the train companies get their act together on travel times and fares. Manchester to Bournemouth is substantially cheaper on Cross Country if you buy 7 split tickets each way- which is a farce- isn't it?

BA318 7th Sep 2021 16:14

I don’t understand the argument that Loganair, Blue Islands etc can’t expand but Flybe can? It’s no harder for those existing carriers to get hold of additional aircraft than it is for Flybe with a total of 0 aircraft. If Loganair sees sufficient demand and wants to expand to meet that it can. There are a lot of aircraft with lessors in need of homes.

OzzyOzBorn 7th Sep 2021 17:42

I didn't say they couldn't. I just outlined the considerations they must take into account if they choose to do so on a scale which would make a FlyBe replacement unnecessary as we enter the post-covid environment.

FlyBe 2.0 would be starting from nothing. No idea what scale they envisage. Cautious at first if they've any sense. But anything they provide is new capacity to the market.

adfly 7th Sep 2021 18:07

Mr A Tis

Some very interesting points here, which I'm inclined to agree with. On a related note, and I guess it is due to them being the strongest brand but Loganair seem to have built up their routes gradually in terms of frequency and passenger numbers from Southampton and Exeter. I guess they must have balanced the chicken/egg situation well.

As of now at the former they seem to have morning/evening flights on the Newcastle route, and 3-4 per day on weekdays to Glasgow and Edinburgh which is not far off what Flybe used to operate, albeit on smaller aircraft.

I do wonder if Eastern have a crewing issue at the moment. As it stands the 6 weekly Belfast and 4 weekly each of Dublin and Manchester seem to just about occupy a single based aircraft. I guess with any substantial increases they will have to bring in the second ATR to fit all of the flights in.


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