Government steps in to help Flybe

With Britain’s biggest regional airline, Flybe, reported to be at the verge of collapse this week, news outlets reported that the carrier was trying to secure additional funding and that the accountancy firm Ernst & Young was on standby to handle the possible administration of the Flybe Group if the funding talks were unsuccessful. Normal operations continued and the airline stated that Flybe would continue to provide great service and connectivity for customers to ensure that they could continue to travel as planned.[1]

The reasons[2] for the possible collapse of this regional airline stems, to a great extent, from the uncertainty of Brexit which hurt its demand. Moreover, the value of the pound slumped drastically after the referendum in 2016 dealing with the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. Additionally, Flybe’s size and its competition with other bigger airlines has contributed to its struggles to a great extent. Whenever a Flybe route becomes successful, bigger airlines with larger aircraft move into the market and sweep up. Flybe has almost been driven out of Bristol, with easyJet now having a monopoly in Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. Flybe is also in competition with rail and road as an air passenger duty of £26 on a round-trip within the U.K. may put people off flying. Demands for air travel remain low as competing rail links are improving, for example new rail timetables introduced on GWR dramatically improved services from Devon to London, damaging the appeal of the Flybe link from Exeter to the Capital. Moreover, regional airlines are arguably the most difficult to operate, due to the relatively short duration of many flights and correspondingly low revenues and profits.

Businesses, unions and MPs urged action to help preserve vital air links between cities around the U.K.

On 15 January 2020, the government agreed a deal with Flybe to implement a re-payment plan for Flybe’s tax bill of around £100 million. Flybe chief executive Mark Anderson welcomed the deal as a “positive outcome for the U.K.” which “will allow us to focus on delivering for our customers and planning for the future.”[3] Prime Minister, Boris Johnson stated that there are limits to what a government can do to rescue a business, but that the government has an obligation to ensure that the country has the regional connectivity it needs.[4] The government insisted that Flybe had not been given “any sort of special treatment” given that HM Revenue & Customs will allow companies of many different types to spread payments under a “Time to Pay” arrangement.[5] According to the most recent Reuters Report, the EU is willing to enter discussions with Britain regarding its rescue of regional airline Flybe, noting that any state aid should be designed to avoid distortion of competition and to ensure a level playing field continues.[6]

The news of the government intervention has angered some in the aviation industry. British Airways’ owner IAG filed a complaint to the EU arguing Flybe’s rescue breaches state aid rules. The BBC[7] reported that Willie Walsh, the outgoing chief executive of IAG, wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, criticising the government’s involvement in its rescue.

In a letter, Mr Walsh said: “Prior to the acquisition of Flybe by the consortium which includes Virgin/Delta, Flybe argued for taxpayers to fund its operations by subsidising regional routes. Virgin/Delta now want the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their mismanagement of the airline. This is a blatant misuse of public funds.”

In the same article, the BBC quoted easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren as saying: “Taxpayers should not be used to bail out individual companies, especially when they are backed by well-funded businesses” and that Ryanair had called for “more robust and frequent stress tests on financially weak airlines and tour operators so the taxpayer does not have to bail them out”. The news also angered environmental groups and rail companies.

The British Airline Pilots Association General Secretary Brian Strutton however welcomed the news and stated that “This is good news for 2,400 Flybe staff whose jobs are secured and regional communities who would have lost their air connectivity without Flybe.”

When Head of Chambers, Lawrence Power and Head of Legal Operations, Robert Pidgeon visited the Flybe facility in Exeter, they were impressed with the high-quality infrastructure and training programmes in Flybe’s training academy. The Academy is a modern international facility that includes a flight simulator complex, Cabin Door trainer, purpose-built classrooms and an integrated Apprentice workshop allowing Flybe to offer an increased range of training. The employees, ranging from pilots to cabin crew are committed and well trained and shutting down Flybe would mean devastating job losses for Flybe’s loyal employees.

Whilst the arguments and criticisms continue, fortunately so do the flights which is a big relief for the Flybe employees and the 8 million people a year who currently depend on Flybe’s service.

© 2020 Whitestone Chambers








Will the proportion of women in high level corporate roles in the Aviation industry increase?

The proportion of women at the highest level of corporate roles in the aviation industry is 3%, which represents one of the lowest levels of female representation across all industries.[1] As of June 2018, 18 women held the role of CEO, President or Managing Director across all commercial airlines.

Obstacles to corporate roles can involve stereotyping in the recruitment process as to what are seen traditionally as female and male traits. These stereotypes can cause difficulties as incorrect assumptions may be made about a woman’s personality and skillset, leading recruiters to deem them a poor fit for the organisation.[2] The low visibility of women at the highest corporate levels can also make the environment seem unwelcoming to other women. This has led to a phenomenon called “Vertical Segregation,” whereby men predominantly work in senior management whilst women generally work in roles below this.

Given the low proportion of women recruited at these levels, some airlines such as Flybe (before being acquired by Virgin Connect), easyJet and TUI have taken steps to encourage women to become pilots. The then CEO of Flybe, Ms Christine Ourmieres won the Inspirational Role Model Award in June 2019 at the IATA Diversity and Inclusion Awards for raising the profile of aviation among young people and inspiring young women to join the aviation industry. She introduced the highly successful FlyShe initiative which received coverage both in the U.K. and abroad.[3] As part of the FlyShe initiative, female pilots and engineers spoke with pupils, produced educational materials for schools to host their own sessions and encouraged young women to consider high level roles as their future careers. They also provided two places for women on their engineering apprenticeship scheme.[4]

Other progressive examples include Air France hiring its first ever female CEO, Ms Anne Rigail in December 2018, and Zoom Air, an Indian regional airline hiring 9 female pilots out of an intake of 30. Another example of promoting the technical abilities of women is the ‘Chix Fix’ group of female technicians from the USA, which was formed in November 2018, to compete as the first all-female commercial airline team in the Aerospace Maintenance Competition. The competition takes place every year in the USA and provides an opportunity for current and future maintenance professionals to demonstrate their technical knowledge in aviation maintenance. The Chix Fix group competed to raise an awareness that aircraft maintenance is a career path for people of all genders.[5]

There are two promising strategies in diversifying high-level roles in the aviation industry in the long-term. The first involves active recruitment of women into executive level positions, providing support and assigning a mentor who can answer their questions regarding company or industry-specific issues. The second strategy involves introducing aviation as an achievable aspiration for young women through providing information at educational events. Critically, there is a need for a cultural change at the highest corporate level. The board itself needs to be outspoken in advocating the need for diversity.

It is important to break down stereotypes and increase the visibility of women in high level aviation roles, which in turn will result in an increase of female aviation professionals as role models for young women, increasing the number of talented women that thriving in high level corporate roles.

© 2020 Whitestone Chambers


[2] Gaucher, D., Friesen, J., & Kay, A. C. (2011). Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 109–128




Donation rather than recycle

Whitestone Chambers has worked with WeeeCharity to donate computers and other IT equipment to the charity. With the equipment that it has received the charity will be able to continue achieving its following goals:

  • To protect and preserve the environment by recycling electrical waste to help reduce the amount of WEEE Waste that ends up in landfill through waste reduction, recycling, repair, refurbish and for resale back into the community.
  • Train volunteers who are unemployed, or faced with disabilities or learning difficulties, with essential skills and knowledge in a safe working environment to improve their work ethic, to prepare them for full time employment.
  • Relieve financial hardship by the recycling and provision of electrical and electronic items at no cost.

Further information about the charity and the great work that it does can be found at:

© 2020 Whitestone Chambers