Flybe’s operating license revoked, averting slot transfer to new owner

Shutterstock/A Periam Photography

The UK Civil Aviation Authority revoked Flybe’s operating license on June 3, 2021,  after an intervention of UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.  The ruling, in turn, halts the carrier’s new owner Flybe Limited – formerly named Thyme Opco – from regaining access to a number of Heathrow slots owned by Flybe.

Following the collapse of British regional airline Flybe and its entry into administration in March 2020, the carrier was acquired by Thyme Opco, now known as Flybe Limited, and affiliated to hedge fund manager Lucien Farrell of Cyrus Capital.

The acquisition, initiated on November 4, 2020, and finalized on April 14, 2021, involved a transfer of Flybe’s business assets to its new owner. Among those assets were seven pairs of London Heathrow slots owned by Flybe and valued at $74 million (£52 million) each before the pandemic. Today the slots are valued at $14 million (£10 million).

The original Flybe was awarded the slots as part of remedial measures to spark competition and prevent the market from consolidating in favor of British Airways. Following Flybe’s collapse, the slots were returned to British Airways, however, Flybe would still have the right to access them if it had an operating license after June 3, 2021.

The decision to revoke Flybe’s license prevents the transfer of the slot pairs to Flybe’s new owner Flybe Limited. Even though Flybe Limited holds a separate, valid, and active operating license, that does not entitle it to ownership of the slots handed to Flybe as remedy measures. Flybe Limited has been awarded less valuable slots at Manchester and Birmingham airports.

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