What it's like to travel on Flybe, the budget airline used by the royals that's fighting to stay in business
Budget airline Flybe is on the brink of bankruptcy, outlets such as Sky News are reporting, though the airline said in a statement on Sunday that "we don't comment on rumor or speculation." It is the largest regional airline in the UK, handling about 40% of domestic traffic. The airline appears to be a favorite of the royals, too — Kate Middleton, Prince William, and their children flew on Flybe in August. Users of the airline review website Flight-Report have praised it for being affordable, and also for good service. However, reviews on TripAdvisor say entertainment and food options are limited. Flybe's bag policy has also been slammed on sites such as Trustpilot and Skytrax. Here's what it's really like to travel with Flybe. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
British budget airline Flybe is on the verge of collapse, multiple outlets including Sky News are reporting, with the UK government considering reducing air passenger duty (APD) in order to save it. Flybe employs around 2,000 people, and is Britain's largest regional airline, operating 189 routes across 12 countries in the UK and Europe. It's known for its stringent bag policy, short flights (it has an average flight time of 55 minutes), and purple lights. The royals also appear to be fans of the airline — in August 2019, Kate Middleton, her husband Prince William, and their children flew on Flybe from Norwich in England to the Scottish city of Aberdeen for around $89 each. Despite the reports, Flybe has denied it's in trouble, saying in a statement on Monday: "Flybe continues to focus on providing great service and connectivity for our customers, to ensure that they can continue to travel as planned. We don't comment on rumor or speculation." Using information from bloggers and websites including Flight-Report, TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, and Skytrax, Insider took a look at what it's really like to fly on the budget airline.Flybe operates numerous routes throughout the UK and Europe.
According to Flybe's website, the airline currently flies to more than 80 airports throughout Europe, with an emphasis on destinations in the United Kingdom. It also handles almost 40% of domestic UK air traffic.
Flybe's website says the airline flew about eight million passengers in 2019. It also reports that the airline offers 189 routes across 12 countries, making it the largest regional airline in Europe. The bulk of its fleet is made up of Bombardier Q400 Dash 8 planes, which seat 78 people.
According to the aviation blog Planespotters, there are currently 71 planes in Flybe's fleet. Most of those (54) are twin-propelled Bombardier Q400 Dash 8s. Flybe also used to fly Boeing 737-300s, according to Planespotters, but stopped using them in 2006. The airline does not operate private jets, but sometimes Flybe's passengers include literal royalty.
In August 2019, Kate Middleton, her husband Prince William, and their children flew on Flybe from Norwich in England to the Scottish city of Aberdeen, on tickets that cost about $89 each. Flybes also operates a number of special flights to help the community.
Santa Claus was a special guest on a Flybe flight for kids from Acorns Children's Hospice in Birmingham and their families in December 2019. The flight took off from Birmingham Airport, and featured Father Christmas walking the aisles and spending time with children as they were treated to stunning views of the English countryside below. Like most airlines, check-in for Flybe flights can be done at self-service kiosks — or online.
At airports such as London City Airport, check-in for Flybe flights can be done at several kiosks throughout the airport — if you even check in at the airport at all. Like most airlines, Flybe offers online check-in, which also allows you to print your boarding pass at home. There are also staffed check-in and baggage drop desks.
Reviewer Danny R flew on Flybe from Southampton to Manchester in May, writing about their experience for the aviation blog Flight-Report. They said the check-in area was nearly empty when they arrived for their flight. Flybe's bag policy has received some poor reviews.
On reviews site Trustpilot, of 1,080 reviews, 82% of the reviews have said Flybe's bag policy is "bad." "Last year you charged me £40 for my hand luggage on my return flight, which was perfectly acceptable on my outbound flight," says reviewer Charles Browne on the site. "You just can't screw your customers in this way." The reviews are not much better on Skytrax. "First and last time I fly with Flybe," says a review from user E Halrich, who reported attempting to bring aboard a carry-on bag. "Flybe still charged me £35 extra for the bag. Absolutely disgusted." According to Flybe's website, passengers are allowed one cabin bag, in addition to a smaller bag such as a purse or laptop case. Hold luggage can cost extra, though how much can depend on the type of ticket a passenger has and where they are going. However, reviewers have also said Flybe's boarding process is simple, and flights typically depart on time.
Flight-Report reviewer Flying-Kolia said the boarding process was "quick" when they flew from London City Airport to Aberdeen in 2015. However, on TripAdvisor, many of the 8,081 reviews contain the words "not very punctual." Overall, the airline has a TripAdvisor rating of 3.5 stars, out of five. Inside the planes, purple is a popular color choice.
Flybe's purple color scheme — which in addition to the lighting includes carpets, seat covers, and cabin crew — was rolled out with a "brand refresh" in 2014. As the airline's then-chief commercial officer, Paul Simmons, said in a press release at the time: "Purple is not just our new brand colour — it reflects our passion for delivering on our commitment to being the fastest way from A to Flybe." Flybe's Q400 planes seat two people on either side of the center aisle.
Most seats don't have TV screens built into them. Passengers say seats have "ample" legroom for a budget flight, though.
When Danny R flew on Flybe, they said there was decent leg room on board the plane. However, they said the bathrooms were cramped. Flight-Report reviewer Bobbie D also said there was "ample" legroom when they flew Flybe from Guernsey to Southampton in July 2015. TripAdvisor awards Flybe's legroom with 3.5 stars out of five. However, seats apparently only recline on some Flybe planes.
Flight-Report user Sealink says the seats on Flybe Q400 planes recline, as they found out when flying from Wick, Scotland to Edinburgh in 2013. However, when Flight-Report reviewer Scott 05 flew from Toulouse, France to Manchester in 2016 on an Embraer 175 plane, they said the seats did not recline. There's food and drink available for purchase on flights.
A Flybe spokesperson told Insider that, with an average flight time of 55 minutes, it's not typical for Flybe flights to offer an inflight meal service. However, food and beverages could be purchased from a menu found in the inflight magazine. One reviewer described the prices of the food and drink on Flybe as "decent."
Flight-Report's Danny R said they thought the food available on board was being sold for a "decent" price. Flight-Report reviewer Scott 05 said they were able to buy quite a lot of snacks and a ginger ale for €9 ($10) in total when they flew to Manchester in 2016. Entertainment options on board are apparently limited.
On a flight they reviewed for Flight-Report on a Q400 from Edinburgh to Manchester in 2018, Loouri reported limited entertainment options with no TV screens — but luckily there was a magazine to read. Inflight entertainment is by far the weakest category in Flybe's TripAdvisor rating. It holds a ranking of just 1.5 stars out of five in the inflight entertainment category — the next lowest category (food and beverage) has three stars out of five. Flights mostly seem to land on time.
Flight-Report user Loouri's flight landed on time. They said Flybe's slogan "Faster than road or rail" was "totally true." Danny R said something similar. However, they added the landing on the flight they reviewed was "bumpy." According to Buying Business Travel, Flybe is among the UK's most punctual airlines. The site reports 76.95% of Flybe flights were on time in 2018, and that the airline was named the most punctual UK-based carrier in a Which? report published in January 2018. However, Flybe is not on airline data analytics firm OAG's latest list of the 10 most punctual airlines in the world. Overall, Flybe has mixed reviews in terms of value for money.
Flybe has a ranking on Flight-Report of 6.8 out of 10. In their review, Danny R said they would "fully recommend" Flybe, calling the airline "super efficient." On TripAdvisor, Flybe is given 3.5 stars out of five in terms of value for money — and 3.5 stars overall. Its highest TripAdvisor ranking category? Cleanliness (four stars out of five). Skytrax gives Flybe two stars overall out of five. Value for money is also ranked on the site as two stars out of five. It remains to be seen what the future of Flybe will look like.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson told the BBC in January "there is no doubt" about the importance of Flybe to the UK, particularly for smaller regional airports. Customers have also told The Guardian about how the airline's collapse would negatively impact their lives, including making it harder to commute to work. According to Sky News, a £100 million rescue package for Flybe is being discussed by British government officials. Read more: I sailed on a cargo ship from Malaysia to Hong Kong, and it was more luxurious than I ever could have imagined I visited the Tower of London, the most popular attraction in the UK, and I couldn't believe people actually live there Here's what it's like to visit Liechtenstein, the Alpine micronation that's the second least-visited country in Europe I hate shopping but a visit to Harrods, the world's most luxurious department store, was so fun I'd go back I went to Europe's least-visited country, and discovered San Marino is just as beautiful as Tuscany — but without the crowds