Will Maule

Don’t sacrifice Flybe to the eco-warrior mob

Don't sacrifice Flybe to the eco-warrior mob
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When I saw droves of carbonistas suggesting that the ailing airline Flybe should be left to nosedive into financial oblivion, I immediately rolled my eyes. Of course an airline that serves people outside of London is falling victim to the city’s woke scaremongers. To millions of people functioning outside of the capital’s bubble, however, travelling from places like Exeter, Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, and Norwich – Flybe is absolutely vital to their livelihood.

Of all the operators to pick an eco-fight with, Flybe is a strange choice. The company’s flagship aircraft, the Dash 8 Q400, utilises ‘turboprop’ technology for thrust, burning 30 per cent less fuel and producing an astonishing 30 to 40 per cent less carbon than normal jets. They are the eco-warriors of the airline industry, for goodness’ sake. Unfortunately, none of that matters in a culture where generic climate change arguments are stripped of nuance and militantly imposed with no questions asked. A quick scan online will tell you that, by pain of mob judgement, you must not express any concern for those plagued by the Australian bushfires unless you’re ready to ditch Flybe for good and force residents of the Isle of Man to get in their dinghies and row across the Irish Sea.

So why aren’t Greta Thunberg's adherents ridiculing Ryanair’s petulant CEO, Michael O’Leary, who is hellbent on putting Flybe in the grave so he can steal their routes and whittle away our leg room until we can all taste our own kneecaps? O’Leary, who has threatened the Government with legal action unless Flybe's grace periods, or ‘tax holidays’, are extended to other airlines (ie. Ryanair), is by all accounts a pretty dreadful man, who once said concerns about climate change were ‘complete and utter rubbish’. Ah, you say, but who then would the London eco-champions call on for their cheap weekend jaunts to Barcelona?

Let’s make no mistake, Flybe’s demise would be utterly disastrous for swathes of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and would hurt plenty of hardworking people. Belfast City Airport would be all but finished, and its swanky new £15m departures refurbishment rendered a colossal waste of time and energy. The city itself, which serves as the beating heart of Northern Ireland’s economy, relies heavily on business links to the mainland. With Stormont’s deadlock finally broken and investment beginning to pour back in, it would be a grim time to sever such an important transport link to Britain.

Of course, Flybe must do better at developing a business model that doesn’t depend on HMRC brushing its tax bills under the carpet. As a regular extortionate-fee-paying passenger from Belfast myself, it is clear that Flybe, or ‘Fly Maybe,’ as I tend to call it, requires urgent intervention. The company has a ‘cancel culture’ of its own making, and it’s not unusual to float through security at Belfast only to be met with a departures board flashing angrily: ‘delayed by four hours’. When you do finally manage to squeeze yourself into what appears to be a repurposed drainage pipe with wings, you’re grateful that the deep discomfort will only torment you for 55 minutes or so.

Claustrophobia-induced PTSD aside, the greater concern here is the political turbulence invoked by an activist left that fails to see beyond the wokest cause of the day, even if it isolates other communities. When will they finally realise the deathly impact their pigheaded lobbying has on former Labour strongholds? Cancelling Flybe might temporarily satisfy the champagne socialist’s eco-moral sensibilities, but with the rest of the UK feeling increasingly estranged from London politically, restricting their freedom of movement would only serve to exacerbate the chasm. It’s this lack of insight that not only lost the left the election, but continues to render them politically impotent.

On the other hand, I’m glad that the Government has recognised the vital importance of keeping these transit links open for the benefit of regular people. In the wake of his historic election victory, Boris Johnson vowed to lead a ‘people’s government’ and, with a few more decisions like this, he’ll be right on course to do so.

So, long live Flybe – the mediocre airline for all. May it continue to wing its way to the obscure parts of this great country with pride (and maybe a little more punctuality).