UK government support for embattled airliner Flybe has been condemned by the head of British Airways (BA) parent company Willy Walsh, as a “blatant misuse of public funds”. Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways-owner IAG, said in an email statement that the Virgin/Delta consortium which owns Flybe “want the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their mismanagement of the airline”.
Before Virgin/Delta consortium bought Flybe the airliner argued for its regional routes to be subsidised by public funds, the airline boss said.
“Flybe’s precarious situation makes a mockery of the promises the airline, its shareholders and Heathrow have made about the expansion of regional flights if a third runway is built”, he added.
Walsh, who is due to retire from his position with IAG in March this year, is also the chief executive of Irish airline Aer Lingus.
The airliner competes with BA along certain routes outside London and was reportedly looking for funding to keep from collapsing.
On 14 January Andrea Leadsom the Minister for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy said in a Tweet that she was “delighted” to have reached an agreement with Flybe’s shareholders to keep it operating. The UK government was considering delaying £106 million in tax duty owed by Flybe in order to assist the airline, according to Sky News.
The airline operates dozens of flights within the UK, as well as to other destinations in Europe, carrying an estimated eight million passengers a year. Approximately 2,300 jobs would be at risk were the company to fold.
This will be the first such government intervention to save a well-known private company in as many years, after the state failed to intervene with larger corporations such as Thomas Cook, British Steel and Monarch Airlines.