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UK airline flybmi collapses under fuel costs, Brexit pressures

London

BRITISH regional airline flybmi announced on Saturday that it had ceased operations and was filing for administration, blaming spikes in fuel and carbon costs and uncertainty over Brexit.

Parent company British Midland Regional Ltd said it had cancelled all flights with immediate effect, and would not be able to purchase, rearrange or reschedule any bookings on behalf of customers.

flybmi, based in the East Midlands region of England, operated 17 aircraft on routes to 25 European cities, and had 376 employees based in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Belgium.

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"It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement today," a company spokesperson said in a statement posted on its website.

"The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs. Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process," the spokesperson added.

flybmi had been unable to secure post-Brexit flying contracts in Europe and feared it may not be able to continue serving destinations on the continent after Britain leaves the EU on March 29, according to the statement.

"Against this background, it has become impossible for the airline's shareholders to continue their extensive programme of funding into the business, despite investment total-ling over £40 million (S$70.2 million) in the last six years," it said.

The airline, which said it carried 522,000 passengers on 29,000 flights last year, operated under codeshare agreements with a host of European partners, including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Air France.

Its flights operated out of Aberdeen, Bristol, East Midlands, London Stansted, Newcastle and Derry in Britain as well as a host of European airports, including Frankurt, Milan Bergamo, Munich, and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

In lengthy advice posted online, it told customers not to travel to airports unless they have re-booked flights with alternative providers. It advised them to seek refunds for their cancelled reservations from credit card companies, booking websites or travel insurance providers.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union in less than six weeks. But its Parliament is yet to approve a withdrawal agreement with the bloc, leaving businesses increasingly concerned that the country may crash out without a deal. AFP