Virgin Atlantic’s customer experience chief Mark Anderson is to head up proposed new Flybe owner Connect Airways, with the airline set to be transformed under the Virgin banner.
Connect, which comprises Virgin Atlantic, Flybe franchise partner Stobart Group and private equity investor Cyrus Capital, is awaiting clearance from EU competition authorities to complete its £2.8 million acquisition of the struggling regional carrier.
Flybe continues to operate separately from Virgin Atlantic, but is expected to be rebranded Virgin “something” in the future and provide regional feed to the airline’s long-haul hubs.
Anderson joins Connect as chief executive from his current role as executive vice-president – customer at Virgin. Since February 2017 he has been responsible for leading and executing the airline’s customer experience strategy.
Prior to his current role at Virgin, Anderson was senior vice-president and managing director of Virgin Holidays.
Lucien Farrell, Connect Airways chair, said: “Mark has a proven record of leadership, strategy and commercial delivery. I look forward to working closely with him and supporting the Connect Airways team as they set out to continue growing the business while transforming the experience customers can expect from regional flying in the UK.”
Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, added: “As the team prepares to launch under a Virgin brand, Mark’s experience and insights from his time at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays will be invaluable. With his absolute focus on customers and business performance, I can think of no better leader to ensure Connect Airways is successful in achieving its ambitions.”
Connect is jointly owned by Virgin (30%), Stobart Group (30%) and Cyrus Capital (40%) and expects its deal for Flybe to be cleared by the EU later this year.
If successful, the group has pledged to establish and invest in Flybe’s long-term future by leveraging the financial backing and expertise available to the consortium partners.
Other objectives include linking airports around the UK with Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network, with a particular focus on connectivity at Manchester and Heathrow airports; maintaining Stobart Air’s strength as a leading franchise-flying business; and offering an enhanced customer experience with Flybe in line with what is customary from Virgin brands.
“It’s a real privilege and honour for me to take on the leadership of Connect Airways at this exciting time,” said Anderson. “We are focused on growing the airline while expanding our franchise business in Dublin, redefining what customers can expect from regional flying in the UK.
“We have all the building blocks in place: Flybe’s heritage and expertise in running Europe’s largest regional airline; the operational excellence and strength of Stobart Air; and in the near future, the magic of the Virgin brand. I can’t wait to get started with the team.”