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Labour urges government to avoid repeat of Thomas Cook shambles by saving ailing airline Flybe

THE government should avoid a repeat of the Thomas Cook “debacle” by intervening to protect airline Flybe, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told MPs today.

Flybe, the largest regional airline in Europe with 139 routes across Britain and the continent, is on the brink of collapse with about 2,300 jobs at risk.

Mr McDonald said during the Commons urgent question on the subject: “News of [Flybe’s] difficulties will worry workers and passengers alike.

“There is clearly a case for government intervention and I trust the government will learn the lessons from their inept response to the Thomas Cook collapse, which saw other nation states being prepared to step in while this government sat on their hands and contacted the company only after it was too late.

“We cannot have a repeat of that debacle. Flybe’s workers and passengers deserve better.”

Mr McDonald asked transport minister Paul Maynard if Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was in talks with trade unions Unite and the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) and whether the government would commit to ensuring the unions are “fully engaged in the process.”

Mr Maynard said that he could not answer for Mr Shapps, who was “having discussions in Whitehall.”

Mr McDonald also warned the government against “simply feathering the nests” of the new consortium that acquired Flybe last year, which includes Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart Group.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who was chairwoman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee in the last parliament, pointed out that there is “something of a pattern emerging.”

She said: “We’ve had the collapse of Monarch, the collapse of Thomas Cook and now potentially the collapse of Flybe.

“When we took evidence on the BEIS select committee in the last parliament on the collapse of Thomas Cook, the evidence we had from the business and the trade unions was the same — that the government were asleep at the wheel.”

Mr Maynard rejected her statement and said that the airline sector across Europe was a “very highly volatile market.”

The urgent question was secured by Tory former minister Caroline Nokes, who suggested that the government consider all funding options post-Brexit as it could be freed from EU state aid rules.

PM Boris Johnson has said that it is “not for government” to step in and save ailing companies.

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