Flybmi’s collapse over Brexit strands passengers across Europe

NEW YORK • The collapse of British regional airline Flybmi over higher fuel prices and Brexit uncertainty has forced stranded passengers across Europe to fend for themselves, without the prospect of help from the UK government.

UK student Mary Ward was in Brussels waiting for a flight to Newscastle on Saturday when she received the airline’s text that said all flights had been cancelled, and was directed to the airline’s website, according to an account on the BBC.

“I paid £130 for my flight which it doesn’t seem I’m going to get back — I don’t know how I am going to get back to Durham,” she told the broadcaster. “I can’t afford any of the flights or the Eurostar.”

The airline filed for administration late on Saturday, in effect grounding all 17 regional aircraft and shutting operations in 25 European cities.

“It has become impossible for the airline’s shareholders to continue their extensive programme of fun- ding into the business, despite investment totalling over £40 million (RM212.16 million) in the last six years,” according to a statement by the carrier, formally known as British Midland Regional Ltd (BMI), published on its website.

“The challenges, particularly those created by Brexit, have proven to be insurmountable.”

The decision by the closely held company is likely to add to pressure on Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, already under fire for signing off on a no-deal Brexit ferry contract with a company that had no ships.

Just two days ago, the minister agreed to continue to subsidise Flybmi’s route between London and Londonderry in Northern Ireland through 2021.

BMI also blamed rising prices for European Union carbon allowances, which have more than doubled since the beginning of last year.

Flybmi had 376 employees in four countries and carried over 520,000 passengers in 2018, according to its website.

“The collapse of Flybmi is devastating news for all employees,” said Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association.

The UK government’s Civil Aviation Authority on its website advised travellers to contact their credit or debit card company, or travel insurer, for details on refunds. — Bloomberg