The Budget Airline That Once Flew Prince William Could Return to the Skies After COVID-19 Fallout

After falling prey to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in March, a budget-friendly European airline could resume operations next year.

Flybe plane
Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty

British carrier Flybe once held the title of Europe’s largest independent regional airline, according to CNN. But perhaps even more impressive was that it was the budget air travel option that Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton chose to fly on for a family trip from England’s Norwich International Airport to Scotland’s Aberdeen Airport in August 2019 with their three kids Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis in tow.

Just months after the royal flight, Flybe ceased to exist, as the early effects of the global pandemic hit the already-struggling business hard, immediately grounding flights in March.

But now the Exeter, England-based carrier — originally founded in 1979 — may take to the skies once more.

In a deal revealed on Monday, a company called Thyme Opco — affiliated with investment firm Cyrus Capital, which had tried to help Flybe with its struggling finances in the past in an attempted deal with Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group — has now acquired Flybe’s brand name, intellectual property, stock, and equipment, according to Travel Weekly UK.

“While the transaction is still subject to certain confidential conditions, the deal is expected to allow the Flybe business to restart operations as a regional airline in the UK under the Flybe brand in early 2021,” the company said in a statement to Travel Weekly UK.

Even with the plans for a smaller start, the news is an uplifting sign for the struggling aviation industry, as the pandemic caused the number of global scheduled passengers to drop from 4.72 billion this year before the pandemic to 2.25 billion after, according to a study by Statista aviation expert E. Mazareanu.

“The restart of this iconic brand, which was once Europe’s largest regional airline, will provide a potentially significant boost to aviation jobs, regional connectivity, and local economies,” said Simon Edel, partner at EY, which helped administer the deal, according to Travel Weekly UK.

Other airlines that have suffered in 2020, include Air Italy and Turkish airline AtlasGlobal — both which ceased operations in February — as well as American-based Compass Airlines, which stopped flying in April. Additionally, Virgin Atlantic and Avianca both filed for bankruptcy.

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