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5 Mar, 2020 03:22

UK airline Flybe succumbs to coronavirus outbreak taking toll on air travel worldwide

UK airline Flybe succumbs to coronavirus outbreak taking toll on air travel worldwide

British airline Flybe has closed its doors for good, as fears over the lethal coronavirus tanks demand for air travel worldwide and the UK government rejects a £100 million loan meant to rescue the company from dire straits.

With its final flights touching down at airports across the UK on Wednesday evening, the Exeter-based firm has taken a serious hit in bookings in recent months and has finally called it quits, going into administration to settle its debts early on Thursday, leaving more than 2,000 workers out of a job.

While Flybe said in January that its financial struggle was linked to holding a “toxic cocktail” of volatile currencies, uncertainty around Brexit and rising fuel costs, one company insider said the deadly Covid-19 outbreak sweeping Asia, Europe and North America was also to blame.

“The impact of coronavirus has made a bad situation worse,” one person close to the airline told the Financial Times. “It has been in a pretty precarious position for a while – it doesn’t take much to push it over the edge.”

The company’s website went offline hours before it officially shuttered, leaving thousands of customers with no easy way to reach the airline, some of them stranded in Manchester after a “fuel issue” forced one of its final flights to divert from its original destination. Passengers have reported being turned away from their flights, with airport staff informing them they had been canceled.

Both Blue Islands and Aurigny airlines, which were partnered with Flybe, have offered discounted flights to any customers stranded on the island of Guernsey due to the airline closing down.

Though the struggling airline – among Europe’s largest regional carriers – recently came under new owners who agreed to invest £30 million ($38.6 million) to keep it in business, the company hoped to secure an additional loan of £100 million ($128.8 million) from the government. That request was rejected on Wednesday, however, after last-minute negotiations fizzled and failed to produce an agreement, according to the Financial Times.

The general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, Brian Strutton, said Flybe staff “will feel disgusted,” accusing the company of betraying its employees and making “broken promises.”

“A year ago Flybe was taken over by new owners with promises of funding for a bright future,” Strutton told the Independent.

Also on rt.com ‘Tough year for airlines’: Global air traffic could fall for 1st time since 2003 due to coronavirus

First observed in China, the coronavirus has infected more than 95,000 people and killed over 3,200 worldwide since December. Outbreaks across dozens of countries have taken a sizable toll on airlines globally as would-be passengers forego travel plans over fear of the illness.

According to the International Air Transport Authority (IATA), the outbreak will likely reduce global traffic by almost five percent, marking the first overall decline in demand since the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

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