Speaking at Routes Europe 2017, which took place in Belfast last week, the airline’s chief commercial officer, Vincent Hodder, said the airline had suffered financially from over-expansion.
By reducing the size of the fleet, he is hoping to return the airline to profitability by focusing on its core business.
Hodder said: “One of the biggest challenges that Flybe has faced was an order for the Embraer 175. It nearly killed the business and we spent three years working out how to ameliorate this decision.
“In April, we reached peak fleet with 85 aircraft, so what you’ll see now is that our fleet base will decline.
“By the end of this year, we’ll have reduced the Q400 fleet by about six aircraft, but by 2019 or 2020 we’ll be at a core profitable number, which is 75 or less.
“We have this unbelievably good core business and if all Flybe had done was focus on the core, we would have delivered profit for the last 10 years.”
Hodder added that the biggest problem the airline currently faced was uncertainty on a number of levels in the UK market.
He continued: “The margins for airlines are so fine that the sheer volume of challenges keeps me awake at night.
“The biggest issue is the rising level of uncertainty, whether that’s cyber security or Brexit.
“The problem with uncertainty is that some people choose not to travel – and that reduces demand.
“The actual outcome of Brexit is not going to be a problem for us; airlines will adapt, whatever the new regulations are. The main problem is the uncertainty which Brexit creates.”
Meanwhile, Belfast International Airport business development director Uel Hoey said while Brexit was a headache, APD remained just as big a problem.
He added: “The biggest point that is a concern to us is that we’re a UK jurisdiction on this island [Northern and Republic of Ireland].
“The short-haul APD means that we don’t have a level playing field with our competitors in Ireland.”