Flybe hires College Hill ahead of listing

Flybe, Europe’s third-largest budget airline, has hired College Hill Associates as its first financial and corporate PR adviser as it considers a stock-market flotation and bolsters its challenge to easyJet and Ryanair.

Flybe marketing and sales director Mike Rutter said the company had hired the City PR shop as part of its move from private ownership to a new structure.

Rutter told PRWeek that a stock-market flotation or private-equity buyout are among the options being considered. ‘We are seeking to act more like a public company and hiring a financial and corporate PR firm is a part of that,’ he said.

Flybe appointed College Hill after an initial four-way pitch that came down to a shootout against one other agency. College Hill account director Crawford Burden is leading the account.

Owned by the Walker Family Trust, flybe was previously known as Jersey European Airways and offered low-cost consumer air travel primarily to UK locations.

It adopted its more media-friendly brand in 2002 as it expanded its network of routes across Europe.

The firm has since moved to a bi-annual reporting structure, and posted a £14m profit in the six months to 30 September, up from a £3.1m profit in the same period in 2003. Flybe says it generates 50 per cent of sales from business trips with the rest coming from leisure travel.

It expects to carry 4.5 million passengers in the 12 months ending March 2005.

Flybe now ranks behind budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet in Europe and is the UK’s biggest regional airline, flying to 33 UK commercial airports. Flybe’s main airport hubs are Southampton, Belfast, Birmingham, Exeter and the Channel Islands.

Last month, flybe announced that from next summer it will offer daily flights from Leeds Bradford to Southampton and Exeter for £19 one-way.

It had earlier announced twice-daily flights from Exeter to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, starting next March.

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