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British airline Flybe collapses, stranding travellers

This Jan. 13, 2020, photo, shows a Flybe flight departing from Manchester Airport in London. The struggling British airline Flybe has collapsed, leaving passengers stranded and told to find their own way home. UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement Thursday, March 5, 2020, that financially troubled Flybe had entered administration. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — The struggling British airline Flybe has collapsed, leaving passengers stranded and told to find their own way home.

UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement Thursday that financially troubled Flybe had entered administration. It said, “All Flybe flights are cancelled. Please do not go to the airport as your Flybe flight will not be operating.”

“Flybe customers are urged to make their own alternative travel arrangements via other airlines, rail or coach operators,” it said.

Flybe’s network included more than half of British domestic flights outside of London.

The carrier’s collapse came after the British government tried to save it, while fending off allegations from competitors that it had provided state aid to Flybe.

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Flybe has a major presence at airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton, and flies some 9 million passengers a year to 170 destinations across the continent. Its links to some difficult-to-reach spots in the UK were a strong selling point for the government.

“This is a sad day for UK aviation and we know that Flybe’s decision to stop trading will be very distressing for all of its employees and customers,” the chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Richard Moriarty, said.

A consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital bought Flybe in February 2019. Known as Connect Airways, it paid just 2.2 million pounds for Flybe’s assets but pledged to inject cash into the airline to turn it around.

Flybe has struggled with a series of issues, including the weakening of the pound in light of Britain’s pending departure from the European Union. The weaker pound hurts airlines like Flybe that have significant costs in dollars but take in revenue in pounds.

The airline also was struggling to pay its airline passenger duty, a tax on flights that many airline groups have long complained restricts growth.

It is the second U.K.-based airline in six months to fail after Thomas Cook went bust in September.

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