Bookings hike cheers Flybe

12:37 04 April 2014

Flybe plane. PA Wire

Flybe plane. PA Wire

Embattled regional airline Flybe offered further signs the group is steadying from recent turbulence as moves to slash fares attract more passengers on to its flights.

The Exeter-based group said it flew 6pc more passengers in its fourth quarter to March 31 - at 1.6 million - despite a 4pc reduction in capacity, while it has already sold a fifth of seats for the summer season, up from 17pc a year earlier.

It said the improvements came as a result of recent air fare promotions, with reduced prices being more than offset by higher passenger numbers as revenues per seat lifted 4pc to £49.80.

But it added that some of the improvement in its summer bookings were down to the later timing of Easter this year.

Shares lifted 4pc as the update provided more evidence that its turnaround is bearing fruit.

Flybe has been axing jobs, closing regional bases and reviewing routes under a major cost-cutting programme to stem losses after slumping into the red by £23.2 million in the previous financial year amid higher fuel costs and a declining domestic market.

It said in February that it expects fewer job losses than previously announced as plans to rid itself of unprofitable routes and surplus aircraft gained momentum.

The group is reducing the number of positions facing the axe by 10pc to around 450, with roughly 40-60 compulsory redundancies.

Flybe is refocusing on larger sites in its network, expanding its service from Birmingham, but closing bases in Inverness, Aberdeen, Isle of Man, Newcastle, Jersey and Guernsey, although it will continue to fly to those airports.

It has already discontinued 30 unprofitable routes for this summer as part of its restructuring drive and will have grounded 14 aircraft by the end of the season.

But it launched eight new routes from Birmingham in February, including to Florence, Cologne and Porto, making the airport its biggest base with 12 aircraft in total.

The group said the new routes had seen better-than-expected demand so far, with more than 30pc of seats already sold for summer.

Flybe relaunched its brand this month with an advertising campaign based around the new strapline - “The fastest way from A to Flybe”.

It is also pledging to reimburse delayed passengers with a £60 voucher if their flight arrives more than 60 minutes late at its destination, as long as they book within 60 days.

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