While the recent coronavirus outbreak could be depicted as the straw that broke Flybe’s back, its bankruptcy in some way is not surprising ‒ the carrier has long struggled with its operational costs, partly due to the Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax. On the other hand, Connect Airways, a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic, purchased the regional carrier in early-2019, at which point it seemed like the gray skies over Flybe‘s bases cleared.
More than a year later, however, Flybe announced that it has entered administration on March 5, 2020. Worryingly, though, the Exeter, United Kingdom-based company has joined a long list of carriers that have ceased operating since 2019 in Europe. While each case is unique, all of them could point to one fact: Europe’s skies are consolidating.
For example, Ernest Airlines, which mainly operated flights between Italy and Eastern European countries, stopped its operations abruptly due to the fact that the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) suspended its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) in January 2020. Not shortly after, Wizz Air took over some of its routes. After all, Wizz Air prides itself on being the largest low-cost carrier in Central and Eastern Europe.
Another example could be Nordica. While technically it was not a bankruptcy, since the company was only a virtual carrier and sold tickets to flights on its subsidiary Regional Jet (now rebranded to Xfly) flights, it stopped operating commercial flights due to intense competition, particularly from airBaltic.
WOW Air, which made strides with its aggressive expansion policy of serving every route and destination under the sun, hit a wall in March 2019. As Icelandair had firmly positioned itself as the number one in the small Atlantic island, the long-haul low-cost carrier bit more than it could chew and closed its doors for the final time in March 2019.
The map below highlights each bankruptcy case by case basis: