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Bishops fear for regions’ economy after Flybe grounded

13 March 2020

PA

Flybe planes parked at Birmingham Airport last week

Flybe planes parked at Birmingham Airport last week

BISHOPS have expressed concern over the impact on internal con­nections in the UK and the economy in their regions caused by the col­lapse of the airline Flybe.

Areas including the Isle of Man, which relied on Flybe for essential transport to mainland hospitals, po­­tentially face serious conse­­­quences. On Thursday of last week, the former Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, posted on Twitter: “The end of Flybe could be serious for @Isle_of_Man.”

The airline’s financial woes, which prompted a government bailout in January, escalated after the corona­virus outbreak led to a fall in pas­senger numbers. The company was declared insolvent on Thursday of last week. Small airports in the UK that were dependent on the airline have lost most of their flights.

Regional airports such as An­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­gle­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­sey, Southampton, Belfast City, Exeter, Newquay, Wick, Jersey, and Cardiff relied on Flybe for more than half their flights; their futures are now in jeopardy. On Monday, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, stated his concern for the effects on Cornwall.

He expressed hope that the Gov­ernment would take the needs of
the region seriously. “The Newquay-London air link is not only vital to our economy: it also enables people from Cornwall to feel truly con­nected and able to play an active part in areas of life which might other­wise be denied to them.

”I don’t think it’s good enough to leave it to market forces to provide a solu­tion which, we know, in reality, might provide connectivity during the sum­­mer months only. If this were a train-operating company, it’s un­­­­­­­­­­­­­­think­­­­­­­able that mini­sters wouldn’t have stepped in right away.”

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, also spoke on Mon­­­­day: “We are concerned about the impact of Flybe’s collapse on the south-west’s connectivity and the local economy. Our transport links are already vulnerable, thanks to the susceptibility of the coastal rail line at Dawlish to bad weather.”

Similar thoughts were expressed the same day by the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd David McClay, who said: “George Best Belfast City Airport is a valued em­­ployer in East Belfast, and is vital for many of us who travel from and to Northern Ireland.”

Despite pressure on the Govern­ment to ensure that Flybe’s routes are maintained, climate acti­vists have voiced their opposition. Many were also against the bailout of Flybe earlier this year.

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