Coronavirus: British airline Flybe goes under as ticket sales dry up

British regional airline Flybe collapsed on Thursday after a plunge in travel demand, making the long-struggling carrier one of the first big corporate casualties of the coronavirus outbreak.

The failure of an airline that connects all corners of the United Kingdom with major European destinations not only puts around 2400 jobs at risk but could also see some airports struggle and regional economies hit.

Passengers like David Manners, whose trip to Paris with his wife was a Christmas present, showed up at Exeter regional airport to find the counters practically empty.

Others like Robyn Kent, who travelled to Exeter for a work trip with colleagues, said their one-hour flight back home to the island of Jersey could mean hours, maybe even days of journey.

Cabin crew also felt the impact of the collapse.

Katherine Denscham said the future now looked uncertain after her 13 years in Flybe have come to an abrupt end.

"All flights have been grounded and the UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect," Flybe said after the government walked away from a rescue package agreed in January.

Airlines around the world have been cancelling flights and warning of a hit to profitability after coronavirus first emerged in China, hitting flights across Asia, before it spread to Europe and beyond.

British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air and United Airlines are among those warning on the impact of a virus that looks set to hit the industry harder than the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Flybe's collapse will also cause more problems for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had promised to "level up" Britain by investing in regional transport links.

His government had agreed a rescue deal for the 41-year-old airline in January, saying it was important to maintain connections across the country for its eight million passengers. It said on Thursday there was nothing more it could do.

Flybe, the largest independent regional airline in Europe, operated between 81 airports and was owned by Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital.

The owners said they had ploughed more than £135 million into the business in the last 14 months, including around £25 million pledged in January.