Flybe is set to be rebranded under the Virgin Group banner after the European Commission (EC) rubber-stamped Connect Airways’ takeover of the regional carrier.
The Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, also comprising Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital Partners, moved for Flybe in the New Year and agreed a £2.8 million deal in March.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss confirmed earlier this year Flybe would be rebranded Virgin “something”, subject to the deal gaining final approval.
The EC ruling means Virgin Atlantic executive vice-president, customer, Mark Anderson, who was announced as chief executive of Connect Airways last month, can assume his new role.
Anderson will now work with the Flybe and Stobart leadership teams to grow Flybe’s regional network and expand Stobart Air franchise business – particularly in Ireland.
“On behalf of Connect Airways, I couldn’t be more excited by the opportunity we have to build a strong platform in the UK and to grow our franchise flying operation in Ireland,” said Anderson.
“Our whole team is focused on redefining the experience for our customers as we rediscover the excitement and passion of being Europe’s largest regional airline.”
Connect says the deal will secure Flybe’s long-term future with financial backing from the consortium; provide greater regional feed for Virgin’s long-haul operations at Heathrow and Manchester; allow Connect to bring Flybe’s customer experience “in line with the Virgin brand”, which it will adopt “in due course”; and develop a “leading franchise-flying” operation.
The consortium added work was also under way on an “exciting new brand and customer proposition”, of which it will reveal further details later this year.
“Mark and his team at Connect Airways have an amazing opportunity ahead of them,” said Weiss. “I’m excited to build on the successful partnership Virgin Atlantic has enjoyed with Flybe, and how we can enhance the experience for our mutual customers once Connect Airways joins the Virgin family and operates under its new brand.”
Lucien Farrell, Connect Airways chairman, added: “Today is an important day as Connect Airways takes full control of Flybe, bringing the team together with Stobart Air.
“Under Mark’s leadership, the company has the opportunity to create a world-class offering for customers, combining a highly successful franchise flying business with Europe’s largest regional airline. I wish Mark and the team every success.”