Virgin Atlantic’s fleet is about to triple, thanks to having a hand in part of an acquisition of short-range airline Flybe and all its jets; this won’t be Virgin’s first foray into the short-haul market, though, as the airline once owned a now-failed domestic fleet of planes for its company Little Red.
Virgin Atlantic has a lot to look forward to in the near future, in particular a fleet that’s expected to triple in size. The jet increase will follow a partial acquisition of short-haul airline Flybe in a deal costing about $2.8 million, Simple Flying reports. Flybe will be rebranded as Connect Airways, with ownership shared between Virgin, Stobart Air, and Cyrus.
Virgin Atlantic’s current long-haul fleet has 47 wide-body planes made by Boeing and Airbus—the acquisition of Flybe will add 78 regional aircraft to that number, for a whopping 125 Virgin planes. All of the Flybe airplanes will be repainted to match Virgin’s color scheme.
This will be Virgin’s second attempt at breaking into the short-haul market. Previously, the airline operated a company called Little Red, which ran only four planes that connected passengers in Aberdeen, Manchester, and Edinburgh to the long-haul routes. Those four planes were wet-leased from Aer Lingus. The airline closed shop after only three years, though, and the slots at Heathrow were sold to Flybe—so Atlantic will be regaining those spots with this deal.
Virgin’s bid to buy Flybe isn’t altogether unexpected; the airlines already have partnerships in place for codesharing, and an existing trade relationship.