Flybe To Rebrand As Virgin Connect

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

Update: In early March 2020, Flybe ceased operations.

The skies above the UK will soon have a lot more little red planes zipping around.

What Is Flybe?

Flybe is a British regional airline, and until earlier this year, it was the largest independent regional airline in Europe. Flybe has a fleet of about 75 aircraft, including about 60 turboprops and about 15 Embraer jets.

Flybe was struggling financially, and at the beginning of 2019 the airline was purchased by the Connect Airways consortium, backed by Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Aviation. We’ve known all along that the plan is for Flybe to eventually operate under the Virgin brand, offering connectivity to the Virgin Atlantic network.

Interestingly this isn’t Virgin Atlantic’s first crack at the domestic and regional market, as Virgin Atlantic Little Red operated from 2013 to 2015. They had a fleet of four A320s, though that concept didn’t work out.

Flybe To Rebrand As Virgin Connect

It has been announced that in 2020 Flybe will rebrand as Virgin Connect. I think that name is just about what most of us expected, given that we knew it would get “Virgin” branding, and also given that the company that bought the airline was called “Connect Airways.”

As Connect Airways CEO Mark Anderson describes this rebranding:

“We are hugely excited by this milestone in our airline’s 40-year history. We will remain true to our heritage and reason for being, which is offering essential regional connectivity to local communities.

At its heart, Virgin Connect will be passionately focused on becoming Europe’s most loved and successful regional airline. It will offer travel that is simple and convenient with the personal touch. Our customers will naturally expect the same exceptional travel experience as they do with other Virgin-related brands. Whatever their reason for flying, we want our customers to feel loved and know we will always put their needs first in every decision we take.

As part of the Virgin family, we now have a tremendously re-energised team. From here on in, we invite our customers, partners and the communities we serve to join us on every step of this exciting journey!”

While renderings haven’t yet been released, we can expect that red will become the brand’s new primary color, compared to the current purple.

We don’t know exactly when in 2020 the new branding will go live, though right now the focus is on improving the performance of the airline, and then focusing on the rebranding.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic’s investment in Flybe is an interesting one, and it will be worth seeing what they do with the airline. In addition to improving on-time performance and customer service, I’m curious how Flybe will be adjusting their route network to work more closely with Virgin Atlantic.

  1. DL/VS are doing this to validate their claim to more slots at an expanded LHR.

    I’ll give it 3 years max after then for the whole operation to be sold, assets sold off and slots redistributed within the group to long haul.

    Cynical? You bet.

  2. Nice to see, as usual a Virgin group product being talked up with lots of promise.

    The reality will be a Dash 8 with your knees tucked under your chin vibrating along with a lot of cabin noise and a charge for drinking water. On arrival at LHR you will have to change terminals to connect to Virgin and even from a ‘clean’ domestic destination you will be screened again at security as everyone changing terminal is rescreened as a matter of course.

    Virgin Red failed because the schedules were awful and at the time they were offering an inferior product to BA on the same routes with poorer schedules.

    As ever, there’s the hype and then reality kicks in and a few buy it but most don’t.

  3. everyone gets screened at heathrow though, no?

    i’ve never had a domestic/EU arrival and connection at Heathrow without screening

    @Phil Duncan

  4. You do realise Flybe does not operate many flights at Heathrow Only 4 destinations versus over 15 from Manchester. They already partner with Air France and share the same facilities at Charles de Gaulle as well as at Manchester
    They can just as easily feed traffic via Manchester Amsterdam or Paris.

  5. “On arrival at LHR you will have to change terminals to connect to Virgin and even from a ‘clean’ domestic destination you will be screened again at security as everyone changing terminal is rescreened as a matter of course.”

    When Little Red operated they ran a secure airside bus to T3 Departures. Pax accessed it from stairs down from the jetbridge or airstairs at the back of the plane. I suspect they’ll be doing that until T2 gets expanded and T3 closes (think 2030-35).

    “everyone gets screened at heathrow though, no? i’ve never had a domestic/EU arrival and connection at Heathrow without screening”

    Passengers arriving on a UK (only) domestic flight, and connecting at the *same terminal* don’t have to reclear security. In practice that’s BA to BA at T5, and EI and BE to onward connections from T2.

  6. Little Red didn’t have a fleet of any planes at all – they were all wetleased from EI

    As to security at LHR when VS did have little red they had a designated bus meet every little red flight and transferred passengers direct to T3 for their onward VS/DL flight without having to go through security.

  7. I recently flew Flybe from GLA to SOU. No complaints. Crew were polite. Flight on time. A good little airline to connect with and cover the smaller cities.

  8. This is good news. With the end of Star Alliance member British midland, the One World BA was left with a domestic jet monopoly on many regional to London connections, even if then connecting onto a Virgin or Star Alliance airline flight as no other connecting short haul airline was left, now a Skyteam partner will bring some completion.

  9. Several years ago flybe flew “jumbolinos”, (small high-wing aircraft with four jet engines below the wing, no engines on fuselage)

    Flew one from Glasgow to Bologna (or maybe Florence?), three or four years ago.

    It was quite nice.

  10. @Rayray.

    If you arrive on a UK domestic service and are transferring in the same terminal you are not re-screened. In reality that only relates to BA services arriving at T5 when that is also your departure point. If you arrive on a domestic service at T5 and transfer to a BA service (or any other) at T3 you will be screened again and the same for any other connection. Flybe have no interline agreements with Star Alliance carriers in T2 except SQ so you have to collect bags and check in again which obviously involves screening.

    Little Red did indeed have a bus transfer but there is nothing yet to suggest this will happen again and if it happens for VS and DL to T3 then surely it needs to happen for AF to T4.

    Or maybe it’s just time to reorganise the terminals again and move DL and VS to T4 and QR and MH to T3 along with non-aligned like EY, LY & KU to make like much more simple all round.

  11. From today’s Guardian,

    “Virgin’s new feeder airline, Virgin Connect (formerly Flybe), could axe some routes over environmental concerns, its boss suggested. Mark Anderson, the chief executive of the parent company Connect Airways, said it might decide certain journeys made more sense by train or car.

    He told PA news agency: “We need to be responsible. Maybe there are some routes in the future that we will potentially not fly.”

    The pledge appeared to be one for the long term, as Weiss told the Airlines 2050 conference that his ambition was for Virgin Connect to operate 12 domestic routes to Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic wants to use the airline’s fleet of 70 aircraft to ensure enough connections to prop up a long-haul network to rival BA’s.“

    So 100 cars are now more environmentally friendly than a small jet?

    It seems Mike is correct, they are doing this purely for Heathrow slots.

  12. I’ve flown with Flybe on a few occasions from both Cardiff and Birmingham and agree with the earlier comment that they are a pleasant small airline.

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