UPDATED: ‘Beast from the East’ causes financial headache for Flybe

Flybe has provided an update on its turnaround plans
Flybe has provided an update on its turnaround plans
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Flybe has warned that its full-year results will take a hit from the extreme weather in February and March, which resulted in widespread transport disruption throughout Britain.

The regional airline, which is in the middle of a turnaround under boss Christine Ourmieres-Widener, said that it had to cancel 994 flights in the fourth quarter due to the so-called Beast from the East.

“As a result, we anticipate this to have an impact of around £4 million from lost revenue and additional care and assistance costs on cancelled and delayed flights.

“Coming so late in the financial year means that this added loss will be reflected in our full-year financial results,” Flybe said.

Despite the weather, the group flagged that its turnaround efforts are bearing some fruit, with passenger revenue per seat up by 9 per cent to £50.84 in the period.

Passenger numbers rose by 3.7 per cent and early indications of summer trading are “encouraging”, with an estimated 7.5 per cent increase in passenger revenue per seat.

Ms Ourmieres-Widener added: “The Flybe strategy as set out in our business plan to reduce the fleet size is delivering higher load factors and revenue per seat.

“The drive to reduce costs is continuing, given added impetus by the rise in fuel prices and lower value of sterling.

“Despite these headwinds, the foundations are being put in place to strengthen the business and we remain confident that our strategy will continue to improve performance as we go into the new financial year.”

In February, shares in Flybe rocketed after Stobart said it was weighing up a potential approach for the Exeter-based business.

But last month Stobart Group said it does not intend to make a bid for Flybe after failing to agree “satisfactory terms” with the regional airline.

In October last year, Flybe marked the start of its winter schedule with an inaugural flight of its Leeds-Bradford to Dusseldorf route. Ronnie Matheson, Flybe’s interim chief commercial officer, said the flight connected two key European business hubs. Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said the route could also provide a boost to businesses across the region.

He said: “This flight brings businesses from Hull to Harrogate closer to the Rhine-Ruhr region of 17 million people, which is beneficial as its economy shares many of the same strengths as we have here in the North, meaning more of our key businesses will find opportunities there than other potential markets.”

In March, Flybe announced the first phase of its 2018/19 winter programme, which has a total of 127 routes, including a Doncaster Sheffield to Belfast City service, which will operate in winter for the first time.

The heavy snowfalls and strong winds caused by the “Beast from the East” brought chaos to many parts of Britain last month. Two police forces declared “major incidents” as the Army was drafted in to help rescue those left trapped in their cars. Hampshire Police called in the military to help evacuate people from the A31.

In Greater Manchester, hundreds of drivers spent a night stuck on the M62, with wind speeds reaching 90mph over the Rakewood Viaduct, between junctions 21 and 22.

M62

M62 lane closure in Leeds causing morning disruption and queuing traffic