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Coronavirus threat puts future of Flybe in doubt


By Philip Murray

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A Flybe aircraft at Inverness Airport.
A Flybe aircraft at Inverness Airport.

CORONAVIRUS could kill off troubled airline Flybe, after a slump in bookings left its future in doubt – according to reports.

ITV and Sky News have both reported that the airline – which runs flights from Inverness to Birmingham, Belfast and Jersey, plus Wick to Aberdeen – has appealed for further loans from the UK treasury or it may not survive the month.

The airline was only saved from collapse as recently as January, when the UK government stepped in to provide emergency support to safeguard it.

But the added uncertainty over the coronavirus – COVID-19 – has been hitting the airline industry hard in recent weeks as global travellers stay at home.

And, with uncertainty hanging over whether existing air passenger duty will be addressed in the imminent UK Budget, Flybe looks to be facing further difficult times.

ITV's business and economics editor, Joel Hills, earlier tweeted that the company had warned the government it would not survive the end of March without more money, and added that it would need a decision over calls for a further £100 million in potential taxpayer loans in the "coming days".

Back in January, before the last bail out, Highland business leaders had warned that the loss of Flybe could deal a major blow to the region's economy.

There were fears that other airlines might not step in to take over the troubled operator's existing routes.

Speaking at the time, Inverness Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, Stewart Nicol, said: "Flybe is important not just for Inverness, but the rest of the Highlands and the business context.

"Flybe have, unfortunately, gone from one crisis to another. It is concerning for the region and businesses that use their services."

The airline employs around 2000 staff.

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