A team of investor groups has come together to rescue financially troubled UK regional carrier Flybe airlines, which is an important connector to Virgin Atlantic and the latter’s service to the USA. A consortium led by Southend airport owner Stobart, Virgin Atlantic and hedge fund Cyrus Capital Partners, which has offices in both London and New York, are rescuing the carrier, which recently reported a drop of more than 54 percent drop in half-year profits. The arrangement will involve a new joint venture called Connect Airways, and is also acquiring Flybe franchise partner Stobart Air. The combined Connect Airways group will operate independently of Virgin Atlantic under one management team, owned 40 percent by Cyrus Capital Partners, 30 percent by Stobart Aviation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stobart Group, and 30 percent by Virgin Atlantic, the holding company of Virgin Atlantic Airways and its tour operator arm Virgin Holidays. Virgin Atlantic, which was founded in 1984 by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, is now majority-owned by Delta Air Lines, which has a 49 percent interest. Branson sold a 31 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic to Air France-KLM in 2017, and retains a 20 percent holding in the airline.
- Minneapolis-based Travel Leaders Group has acquired event provider Your Event Solutions (YES), which is a major player in the global MICE market, and is based in Halifax, UK. In early 2018, Travel Leaders acquired Barrhead Travel, one of the largest retail travel companies in the UK. The company said the addition of YES would complement its growing presence in the meetings and incentive marketplace, and provide both firms with additional geographic reach and meetings expertise. YES provides a range of corporate event solutions from venue sourcing, meetings and training events, to executive conferences, large-scale exhibitions, product launches and incentive travel programs in locations around the world. Sue Gill, founder and CEO, will remain in her current role and YES will retain its brand. No major operating changes are anticipated at the company following the acquisition by Travel Leaders, which ranks Number 8 in Travel Weekly’s 2018 Power List of the largest travel agencies doing business in the United States.
- The Australian company Flight Centre Travel Group, whose holdings include wholesaler GOGO Vacations, has announced an agreement to acquire Silicon Valley-based Casto Travel’s U.S. operations. A Flight Centre statement said that the acquisition is expected to close early in February 2019. Flight Centre’s managing director, Graham Turner, said that the acquisition would strengthen the company’s overall operations in the United States, which includes corporate travel and leisure travel, as well as GOGO Vacations. He said the deal would also give the company greater scale in Silicon Valley and the West Coast market. Flight Centre Travel Group entered the U.S. market in late 2007 and early 2008 with the purchase of GOGO and Liberty Travel. The company has since launched a new brand for independent travel agents, Independent by Liberty Travel, and has continued to expand worldwide.