Flybe airline collapses in wake of coronavirus, stranding passengers

The British airline Flybe collapsed Thursday, as the coronavirus outbreak appeared to deliver the death blow to the struggling company.

The abrupt demise of Europe’s biggest independent regional airline — which comes as global demand for air travel has plummeted because of the deadly bug  — left some passengers stranded at UK airports.

“With the situation that’s developed with (coronavirus), an already weak company, I’m afraid, just hasn’t been able to survive,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.

A notice on Flybe’s website says the 40-year-old airline had entered administration — a procedure for insolvent companies — ceased trading and grounded all flights. It urged travelers who had booked Flybe trips not to go to the airport unless they had alternative travel arrangements.

But many travelers were still reportedly stranded at airports Flybe serves after the sudden shutdown. Up to 30 passengers got to the airport in Birmingham, England Thursday morning expecting to fly to parts of the UK and Europe only to find out their flights had been canceled, the Guardian newspaper reported.

“I think it’s very sad that it’s gone bust and I feel very sorry for the people who were meant to be flying with them today,” Flybe customer Patrick Greenford told the paper at the Manchester airport. “It’s very sad for the people who don’t have work anymore too.”

The UK government dispatched workers to assist stranded flyers and called on train, coach and airline operators to help them get home, according to Shapps. Several train companies offered free travel to stuck Flybe passengers and crew. British Airways said it would get Flybe staff home for free and offered 50-pound fares to travelers left without flights.

Flybe collapsed despite recent efforts to rescue the airline that had about 2,400 employees and served dozens of airports in the UK and continental Europe. A group including Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyprus Capital bought the company in January for $2.8 million, and the government offered a possible loan, tax breaks and a review of flight tax rules to help shore it up.

Flybe’s demise comes as the coronavirus outbreak threatens passenger airlines with as much as $113 billion in revenue losses this year if the disease spreads further, according to the International Air Transport Association.

“Sadly, despite the efforts of all involved to turn the airline around, not least the people of Flybe, the impact of COVID-19 on Flybe’s trading means that the consortium can no longer commit to continued financial support,” Virgin and Stobart said in a statement, using the medical name for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

With Post wires

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