May 17, 2018 / 3:33 PM / 6 months ago

Flybe forecasts tough times due to fuel costs, staffing and Brexit

DUBLIN, May 17 (Reuters) - Flybe expects rising fuel prices, staffing crunches and Britain’s exit from the European Union to mean a challenging period ahead for carriers, the regional airline’s chief executive said.

“We have fuel challenges arriving, foreign exchange, we need to be prepared for pilot shortages. It’s a tough environment,” Christine Ourmieres-Widener told Reuters on the sidelines of a CAPA Centre for Aviation summit in Dublin.

The price of crude oil has climbed to above $80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014, spurred by concerns that Iranian exports could fall due to renewed U.S. sanctions and reduce supply in an already tightening market.

Ourmieres-Widener said along with a general tightness in the market for pilots, Flybe was also concerned by a lack of engineering resources in Britain.

On Brexit, Flybe would like to see more urgency from the British government in agreeing a deal as it is already selling tickets for the period beyond March 2019, the planned departure date of Britain from the EU, but has inserted a clause saying the flights are dependent on post Brexit flying rights.

“We have a list of questions,” Ourmieres-Widener, said, citing aircraft leasing and maintenance certification as among issues. “Uncertainty is never good for business,” she added, saying she had held talks with MPs to impress that on them.

Earlier, Irish transport minister Shane Ross said Brexit was an unprecedented challenge for the aviation industry.

Ourmieres-Widener said while partnerships could help the airline amidst a tough backdrop, it would only enter partnerships if they offered value to Flybe.

Britain’s Stobart Group in March scrapped plans to buy Flybe, saying the regional airline had rejected a bid and it had decided against making a higher offer.

Asked whether Flybe would consider another offer, Ourmieres-Widener said it would be a decision for the board.

“The role of any board is to look at anything to see what is the best solution for shareholders and the employees,” she said. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan Editing by Alexander Smith)

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