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Flybe: NI reaction as airline is set to collapse

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe airline said coronavirus had led to a reduction in bookings

A vital travel link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK could be under threat due to the expected collapse of airline Flybe.

It is believed to be just hours away from going into administration, after it narrowly avoided going under in January.

The Exeter-based company said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on demand for air travel was partly to blame for a recent downturn in bookings.

Flybe operates 80% of the flights at Belfast City Airport.

At least 41 Flybe flights are due to arrive there on Thursday, with 39 departures planned too.

image copyrightFlybe
image captionThe company's website was not accessible on Wednesday night

On Wednesday night, Belfast City Airport said it could not comment on the situation at this time.

The Flybe website said the page was "no longer live".

'Big test'

First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted she had spoken to the UK government "regarding impact of Flybe on local workforce and travellers as well as importance of key routes for air connectivity in Northern Ireland".

The response would be a "big test" of the government's commitment to UK regional connectivity, she added.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Many passengers took to social media, asking what will happen with flights booked for Thursday and in the coming days and weeks.

Some had booked their travel just hours before it became apparent there were serious issues.

Other passengers turned up for their flights with information coming on a piecemeal basis.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Some boarded planes which then had to turn back to the terminal after taxiing to the runway.

BBC sports presenter Holly Hamilton was flying from Manchester to Belfast and was stuck on board while deliberations were made over the flight, which eventually took off.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Northern Ireland's politicians have also taken to social media to express their dismay.

East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he would consult Economy Minister Diane Dodds on how to minimise the impact.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Other politicians suggested it might be time to look at all of the available options, including an overhaul of current provision.

South Belfast SDLP assembly member Matthew O'Toole called for an economic strategy on an all-island basis.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

North Down MP Stephen Farry called the development "deeply worrying news" and said the collapse was likely to be discussed in the House of Commons on Thursday.

He also wants the future of the airline and the future of Belfast City Airport to remain separate.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The collapse of Flybe may not spell the end of its routes from Belfast.

The airline had previously come close to this point last year, before being granted a loan by the UK government.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

It is understood Belfast City Airport bosses had discussed the availability of other carriers in that scenario.

However, that profitability may be mitigated by other factors, according to Belfast-based economist Richard Ramsey.

"NI already soon to be facing a sea-border from Brexit. Now a partial air border with strategic air-routes stopped/reduced from Flybexit," he tweeted.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Related Topics

  • Belfast City Airport
  • Flybe

More on this story

  • Collapsed Flybe tells passengers not to travel to airports