Passengers Face Cost of New Flights After Collapse of flybmi

18 February 2019, 09:22 | Updated: 19 February 2019, 08:19

FlyBmi collapse notice

Hundreds of passengers have been left scrambling to reorganise cancelled flights after the collapse of Leicestershire-based flybmi.

It is understood 1,500 passengers had been scheduled to fly with the airline on Sunday, a day after it announced it had ceased operations.

British Midland Regional Limited, which operated as flybmi, said difficulties which led to the announcement that it was filing for administration included increases in fuel and carbon costs, and challenges "particularly those created by Brexit".

Scottish regional airline Loganair confirmed it had stepped in to take over five routes out of Aberdeen and Newcastle, and expressed its interest in the City of Derry to London Stansted route.

Loganair also said it was working on employment opportunities "to strengthen the Loganair team".

A total of 376 employees based in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Belgium were employed by bmi Regional.

The East Midlands-based airline had operated flights on routes to 25 European cities, including Aberdeen, Bristol, City of Derry, East Midlands, London Stansted and Newcastle.

The news, which came the weekend many schools cross the country finished for half-term holidays, saw hundreds of passengers face travel disruption.

One university student said on Sunday that she was stranded in Brussels and did not know how she would get back to Newcastle.

Mary Ward said: "All the flights for me to return home are really expensive and flybmi have said they won't return the £134 that I initially spent, so I don't know how I am going to get back."

Another passenger said he had already gone through security at Bristol airport when his flight was cancelled on Saturday, and another said their planned flight this Tuesday was "up the swanny then", adding: "Charity event to be revisited as and when I get official word."

Civil engineer Danny McLaughlin, who lives along the Irish border, said it is the first direct effect of Brexit he has felt.

The 46-year-old father-of-two, who lives near Buncrana in Co Donegal, had 14 flights booked through his job over the next seven weeks between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted.

He said: "I'm a bit stunned to be honest with you. I know airlines and things have been saying this for quite a while but it just came as a bolt out of the blue."

It was claimed some passengers were still able to make bookings on Saturday, hours before the announcement of the collapse came.

A tweet from the airline a day earlier invited people to book a trip with flybmi to Munich for winter sports.

Rory Boland, travel editor at Which?, said: "Some customers have claimed that tickets were being sold in the hours before the airline went bust, knowing full well those tickets would never be honoured, and passengers will rightly be outraged if this is proved to be the case."

Mr Boland said it is the latest incident which has seen people forced to deal with having their plans disrupted, and advised holidaymakers to ensure they have cover for their trips.

He said: "Instability in the travel industry has seen several airlines collapse in the last 12 months - exposing thousands of people to the nightmare of having their trip cancelled at the last minute or struggling to get home from abroad.

"That instability looks set to continue, potentially putting Easter and Summer holiday plans at risk.

"It's never been more important for people to check they have some cover - by ensuring their travel agent offers Atol protection when booking a package holiday or considering scheduled airline failure as an add-on to travel insurance for those booking flights."

A statement on the flybmi website said: "The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU's recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These issues have undermined efforts to move the airline into profit.

"Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and lack of confidence around bmi's ability to continue flying between destinations in Europe.

"Additionally, our situation mirrors wider difficulties in the regional airline industry which have been well documented.

"Against this background, it has become impossible for the airline's shareholders to continue their extensive programme of funding into the business, despite investment totalling over £40 million in the last six years.

"We sincerely regret that this course of action has become the only option open to us, but the challenges, particularly those created by Brexit, have proven to be insurmountable."

Customers have been advised to contact their payment card issuer to get a refund for flights, while those who have booked through a travel agent or partner airlines are advised to contact their agent or airline for details of their options.

Just two days before flybmi's collapse, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had announced the Government's commitment to the route between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted for a further two years until May 2021.

Derry City and Strabane District Council said it is "committed" to securing an immediate replacement airline for the route.

A DfT spokesman said: "It is very disappointing that flybmi has gone into administration and we know this will be a very difficult time for those who have lost their jobs as a result.

"This will also of course be disruptive for passengers. We are fully focused on supporting those affected and are in contact with airports, airlines and other transport providers to ensure everything possible is being done to help them."

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa), said: "The collapse of flybmi is devastating news for all employees.

"Regrettably Balpa had no warning or any information from the company at all.

"Our immediate steps will be to support flybmi pilots and explore with the directors and administrators whether their jobs can be saved."

Flybmi is the latest of several airlines to collapse in recent years as firms complain about rising fuel costs and concerns about Brexit.

In October 2017, Monarch became the biggest ever British airline to suffer a collapse when it went into administration.

Customers have been advised to contact their payment card issuer to get a refund for flights, while those who have booked through a travel agent or partner airlines are advised to contact their agent or airline for details of their options.