Virgin Atlantic could be poised for a return to Aberdeen and a debut in Inverness after it emerged it is in talks with Flybe over a potential takeover.
Flybe’s shares raced ahead yesterday after both airlines confirmed the discussions.
Virgin, which is part owned by Sir Richard Branson, said it was “reviewing its options” for a trading and codeshare relationship with Flybe.
These include “enhanced commercial arrangements” and a possible takeover offer.
Flybe stressed Virgin was just “one of the parties” it is talking to as part of a sale process launched last week, adding: “There can be no certainty that an offer will be made.”
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Virgin – possibly eyeing prized take-off and landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport – is thought to be vying with budget carrier easyJet and infrastructure and support services company Stobart Group to buy Flybe, whose pre-tax profits more than halved to £7.4 million during the six months to September 30.
Flybe carries about eight million passengers a year between 81 airports across Europe.
It operates flights from Aberdeen to destinations including Heathrow, London City, Manchester, Birmingham and Belfast, plus Stavanger in Norway under a partnership with Eastern Airways. From Inverness, it has flights to Birmingham and Belfast.
Virgin was last in Aberdeen with its Little Red service, which folded in 2015 just two-and-a-half years after start-up.
Little Red and its flights from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester were meant to challenge British Airways on services into Heathrow.
Flybe’s domestic routes could be attractive to Virgin because of their potential as feeder services for long-haul flights.