The boss of Flybe has admitted the airline was on the brink of collapse when he took over almost three years ago.
Saad Hammad described the regional carrier at the time as “running out of cash, loss-making, in disarray”.
Floated at 295p a share in 2010, the share price stood at 46½p when the former easyJet executive was appointed chief executive.
“I literally came in and realised: ‘God, this could be very, very serious very quickly’,” he said of Flybe’s finances when he arrived in August 2013. “I thought I had a bit more time.”
He told the Telegraph at the weekend: “We had in that summer around six days, at one point, of free cash left. And then in January 2014 that had gone down to three days of free cash flow.”
Hammad was forced to make slash about 1,000 jobs – a third of the workforce – not long after he took charge.
The process was “really harrowing”, Hammad admitted, but “I decided I wasn’t going to do it by remote control”.
Hammad visited all of Flybe’s bases to speak to as many employees and ended up addressing 843 who were to lose their jobs.
“Having to part ways with these folks through no fault of their own was really tough,” he said.
Hammad said the prospects for Exeter-based Flybe, which flies from 37 UK airports on routes where there is limited demand, are now looking brighter.
The airline will generate annual profits of £3.3 million this year and it is expanding in Europe.
“After several years of underlying losses we are going to be profitable this year,” Hammad said, while conceding the carrier still faces “a tough environment”.
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