Christine Ourmieres-Widener, CEO, flybe
» Interview
01/07/2017

London City Airport - proud sponsor of the Air Transport News interview programme

London City Airport is celebrating its 30th anniversary year in 2017.  Officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 5 November 1987, the airport has welcomed more than 50m passengers and 1.5m flights over the last three decades.
LCY is a first choice for business travellers to and from the UK, and is loved for its location just minutes from Canary Wharf and the City of London, the speed it offers to passengers with a quick check-in (20 minutes door to lounge) and quick arrival (15 minutes tarmac to train), and excellent customer experience, with unlimited free wifi for all passengers, free drop-off, and a business-class feel throughout.

The only airport actually in London, a major expansion programme is underway to increase runway and terminal capacity at LCY, enabling it to welcome 6.5m passengers and 111,000 flights per year by 2025.

In the meantime, a £20m upgrade to departure gates is now open and new routes continue to launch, with Berlin, Cardiff, Rennes and Bergerac amongst the latest to join the LCY network.

Find out more at www.londoncityairport.com

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LONDON CITY AIRPORT!

 

Interview of Ms. Christine Ourmieres-Widener, CEO, flybe

 

ATN:How does Brexit influence your operations?

CO: In fact today with the launch of the winter season we will not be operating any intra-European routes, so for us as an airline it is not as critical a situation when you compare with other European airlines. We are monitoring the developments of Brexit but today we are not looking at establishing a new certificate to operate inside Europe.  I think for us the most important thing is to get clarity from the government about the Brexit negotiations and we are working closely with them.

 

ATN: Which are your challenges for the next few years?

CO: We have, like any other business, internal and external challenges. Internally, there is always pressure on costs which is why we're trying to be more efficient and also making sure that we are decreasing these costs on a daily basis and streamlining our operations without losing the quality of service or on-time performance and reliability. Externally, we have a number of risks- you mentioned Brexit- but we are also trying to influence decisions such as APD (Air Passenger Duty) and we continue to try hard to convince all stakeholders to support the abolition of APD because we think that it is a punitive tax that has a direct effect on the passenger and we think that the abolition of the APD could contribute an economic boost to the industry.

 

ATN: Do you plan to launch any new routes in 2018?

CO: We are embarking on our consolidation phase with our business plan that we launched last week and we will start to reduce our fleet size by the end of the year. So, the routes that we are going to launch from now on are going to be based on pure demand and driven by supply and the sort of aircraft we want to operate. We are optimizing our network and for 2017 we have already announced for summer that we will launch the Cardiff- Rome route, Dusseldorf- Guernsey route and the Doncaster Sheffield to Palma Mallorca route, we are also reinforcing our leisure hub in Southampton that opens up 33 connections to regions in France and Italy from all over the UK and we will review opportunities to extend operations.

 

ATN: You opened recently a base in Dusseldorf, why did you chose this city in Germany and what is your target group there?

CO: The Dusseldorf base was chosen because we already had two overnighting aircraft there and we wanted to make a base there where we could add local crew who speak the language in addition to the overnighting aircraft, but we have no new routes except for those already announced to extend our operation in Dusseldorf.

 

ATN: Do you plan to expand your fleet in the near future?

CO: We are now optimizing our fleet and starting to pull back on some aircraft capacity. So, today we're looking at what will be effective in the long-term and we perform deep analysis of our fleet, we currently have no plans to expand our fleet so far.

 

ATN: You started operating to London City Airport in 2014. Was it successful and do you plan to expand your cooperation with London City Airport?

CO: London city is a very important element of our programme and we are constantly reviewing opportunities to extend operations. This summer we will be flying to eight destinations from London City, including Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Rennes, Cardiff and Dusseldorf. We have a commitment to the airport for partnership and we are always looking for opportunities with the airport moving forward in the future but nothing has been decided yet.

 

ATN: You have already codeshare agreement with Singapore Airlines, Air India, Air Berlin and Virgin among others; are you happy with these deals and are you planing to have more cooperations in the future?

CO: Yes of course we are very happy and moreover with the launch of flights to Heathrow from Aberdeen and Edinburgh we are now able to expand on those partnerships further. We also have codeshare agreements with Emirates and Etihad in addition to many others and we are working on more to add in the future. We want to connect our customers, most of our customers are flying from regions and communities around the UK and they can connect to the world not only in Europe but also onto international destinations, they can do that also via different hubs in the UK for instance, Manchester and Birmingham.

 

ATN: Is it possible to see Flybe joining an Alliance in the future?

CO: It is a good question but I think that being a regional airline, as you already know, is a very challenging place to be. Today we have quite a number of partnerships that are really adding value to our bottom line. Today I don't see what the value is for us to join an alliance so but again we are happy to study a future opportunity if it makes sense.

 

ATN: Do you plan to have any Partners from the Gulf area?

CO: We already have a very strong partnership with Etihad and Emirates because we have a codeshare agreement with them. We have also entered into an agreements with other partners so we always look at what could be of significant benefit and whatever would makes sense in connecting to our network we study it.

 

ATN: How important is to be part of Avios frequent flyer program?

CO: It is very important, we have a very good and close relationship with Avios and we would like them to develop this program even further. The Avios program is well established in the airline industry and customers that are registered with Avios collect points when they fly with us, but there are also opportunities for potential customers that fly with us tο convert points and redeem them with a range of partners.  So it's a very powerful program, we have already launched “part pay” which allow customers to part-pay and offset fares when flying with Flybe. We are working with Avios to see how this new initiative is moving forward.

 

ATN: How important is your participation in ERA?

CO: ERA is of great value for us and because aviation has to play a stronger role in working with local economies and connecting local communities.  Flybe is  Europe's  largest regional airline and we share with ERA the same goals and ambitions to contribute towards better awareness of the key role played by regional Aviation, not only as an  enabler to the global aviation market but also in our contribution role in the development of local economies. ERA is doing a great job in doing that. I am now sitting at the ERA board and we are all working to support and promote the members’ interests.

 

ATN: What do you think is the future for regional  aviation in Europe in the  next few years?

CO: Regional Aviation operates in an ever- moving, very challenging environment with many risks and threats surrounding us. It will face many changes in the coming years with all the political impact on our industry; all regional airlines have to play significant role and ERA too has a central role to play. We all have to contribute towards raising our profile and show that regional aviation a key factor in the economic and social development in Europe .

 

ATN: What are your personal goals for the coming years?

CO: We have just launched our business plan and my personal goal is to make Flybe a successful airline and a profitable airline, serving the regions and our customers, whether they are leisure or business travelers. Also making sure that shareholders are supporting us in our growth and evolution forward. But the top priority for me is to make sure that all of the staff and employees here are really enjoying working for a successful airline.

 

ATN: Do you have any last thoughts that you would like to share with our readers?

CO: Regional airlines are really below the radar because we are connecting secondary airports but we are really close to our customers as we are flying them either to major airports or connecting them from other secondary airports, but we know how important the service we provide is. It is a very different type of business but it is a key business as it makes sure that the regions have a sustainable future.



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