Evening Call: The deal to save Flybe is good for passengers – and terrible for the planet


This won’t be the last time the government does something that contradicts its own environmental policy.

Well, the good news is that, if you’re someone who regularly needs to fly from, say, Belfast to Cornwall, or Anglesey to Cardiff, then the flights you rely on are not going to stop any time soon. The bad news is that the planet is burning and we’re probably all going to die.

This probably needs some context. The government has agreed a deal to prop up Flybe, by deferring some of its air passenger duty payments. The struggling airline is facing a tax debt widely believed to stand at over £100m. (And you thought your finances were looking tight this January.) The move will enable the airline to keep flying, while its owners – Virgin Atlantic, Cyrus Capital and Stobart Air – invest another £20m into the company.

The deal has been welcomed by passengers, some of whom rely on the airline’s fairly eccentric selection of routes. But it has been attacked by two different sets of people, one of which has a much stronger case than the other.

The weaker case comes from other airlines and the rail industry, who’ve got the hump that the government is propping up a rival. EasyJet and Ryanair have both said taxpayer funds shouldn’t be used to prop up their competitor, while IAG, which owns British Airways, has filed a complaint to the EU arguing that the deal breaches state aid rules. In his letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, BA chief executive Willie Walsh pointed out that Virgin Atlantic is – I paraphrase – really not short of a few bob.

I’m not going to get into the legal ins and outs of bail out – I simply don’t know. But I do think that, from a philosophical standpoint, the …read more

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