When regional airline Flybe collapsed on Thursday 5 March 2020, the rail industry was quick to rally round and support stranded passengers and crew.
The airline, which used the slogan “Faster than road or rail”, went into liquidation in the early hours of Thursday morning – one of the few times when all of its aircraft were on the ground.
An already bad financial situation had been made worse in recent days as the public held off from travelling due to fears about Coronavirus. The airline, which had already been rescued by government action on taxes, simply ran out of money, and its owner Connect Airways – a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and Cyrus Capital – wouldn’t put in any more funds.
First Group announced that it would offer a free ticket on its trains to all Flybe customers. They would need to provide a boarding pass or other valid proof of booking while Flybe employees could show staff ID to take up the same offer.
Steve Montgomery, First Rail managing director, announced: “Our rail services connect people and communities up and down the country and, as a gesture of goodwill, we want to ensure that anyone who was due to travel on Flybe’s grounded flights today can still complete their journey.”
The offer was made on behalf of all of FirstGroup’s rail companies – Avanti West Coast, Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Hull Trains.
Flybe operated flights from airports across the UK, including Birmingham International and Liverpool John Lennon. West Midlands Trains, which operates West Midlands Railway (WMR) and London Northwestern Railway (LNR) services between Liverpool and London and across the West Midlands, also offered to get stranded passengers and crew home.
Andy Camp, commercial director for WMR and LNR, said: “Passengers with Flybe may be anxious as they work out how they are going to complete their journeys.
“At this difficult time, we are happy to play our part in helping remove some of the stress by providing free travel on our services for Flybe ticket-holders and staff members.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent transport watchdog Transport Focus, said: “The collapse of Flybe is sad news for the company’s passengers and staff. It’s good to see train companies helping people get home quickly and with as little stress as possible.”