The regional carrier said it would trim its fleet to around 70 aircraft by early 2020 from a peak of 85 this time last year. All nine Embraer 195 jets will be disposed of, but “a number” of the 11 smaller E175s will be retained for longer or busier routes. Another four E175s due for delivery next year will be absorbed into the fleet as planned.
The decision means the bulk of Flybe passengers will fly on Bombardier Q400 propeller aircraft. In a Stock Exchange statement, the carrier said: “Flybe’s Q400 fleet remains a relatively young one, with an average age of just over 10 years. The airline has accordingly concluded that it will retain its remaining Q400 aircraft and, where economic, extend their service lives.
"This will save considerable capital expenditure over the next few years, by avoiding the requirement to acquire new aircraft.”
The airline’s chief executive Christine Ourmières-Widener said: "Flybe’s strategy is to reduce the fleet size to an optimum level and make the business demand-driven rather than capacity-led.
“Our fleet configuration is an important part of that strategy. We examined exhaustively all the options and concluded the Bombardier Q400 is the best core aircraft for us. Its superior economy, speed and quietness is ideal for a regional airline such as ourselves. Together with a number of Embraer E175s, our future fleet will be the optimum required for our specific regional route network."
Flybe lost £6.7 million in 2016/17 and has warned that last winter’s severe weather would reflect its full-year results by around £4 million. The carrier saw 2017/18 half-year profits before tax fall from £15.9 million to £8.4 million in the six months to the end of September 2017.