UK regional carrier Flybe has completed its search for new uses for its surplus Embraer E195s.
Finding roles for Flybe’s 14 original regional jets has been described as the last remaining legacy issue for the carrier, which has undergone major changes in recent times, bringing in new management and shedding its unprofitable Finnish operations.
Five of the aircraft had previously been handed back to lessors—two were based earlier this year at Cardiff Airport in Wales and one serves Exeter and Norwich airports to provide UK and European connections for the three regional destinations.
The Exeter-based carrier announced Nov. 3 that the remaining aircraft would replace a Bombardier Q400 at Newquay, in the far southwest of England, under a redefined Public Service Obligation (PSO) agreement with Cornwall Council to satisfy increased demand on the Newquay-London Gatwick route already operated by Flybe.
Two will be based at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, in northern England, flying to European destinations under a long-term agreement with the airport to provide additional connectivity.
Three will operate at Birmingham and Manchester airports, with two providing additional capacity on high load factor routes and the third providing standby cover across Flybe’s network
The redeployment—known internally as Project Blackbird—will cut Flybe’s previously indicated obligation of £80 million ($123 million) over the remaining four-year term of the aircraft leases by £40 million.
The carrier said it estimated the financial cost of resolving the remaining E195s would be £20 million this year, reducing to around £10 million next year, then to £6 million the year after and £4 million in the following year.
“The arrangements announced today are a superb result for all Flybe stakeholders,” Flybe CEO Saad Hammad said. “They avoid the need for any upfront payment, enhance UK regional connectivity and have mitigated exposures to Flybe. With the last of our major legacy issues behind us, we can now focus all our attention on becoming a world-class regional airline.”
The latest redeployments were also welcomed by the airports where the aircraft will be based. “This is a transformational announcement which brings massively enhanced connectivity to the Sheffield City Region’s airport,” said Steve Gill, managing director of Doncaster Sheffield Airport. “Doncaster Sheffield Airport is already the fastest growing airport outside London. These two new aircraft will make available half a million new flight seats and is expected to grow our passenger traffic by around 30%.”
Newquay, which suffers from lengthy, slow road connections from Cornwall to London, will also benefit, said Adam Paynter, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for resources.
“The success of the PSO service has meant that passengers have sometimes struggled to get tickets for some flights. We know that this service is hugely important for businesses in Cornwall, with a large number of people regularly using the route to travel to and from London.”