Regional UK specialist Eastern Airways (T3, Humberside) is set to become a flybe. (BE, Exeter) franchise operator following the signing of a partnership agreement with the Flybe Group this week.

In a statement, the Group said the deal includes a five-year franchise agreement in which Eastern will operate its scheduled route network under the Flybe brand and a joint revenue and risk sharing agreement, covering four Eastern aircraft, to fly existing Flybe-branded routes from Aberdeen Dyce, Edinburgh, Glasgow Int'l, and Manchester Int'l.

Flybe says it hopes to finalize and sign off on all contracts within the next few weeks in time for the venture's formal launch this September.

Using the Flybe banner, Eastern will operate flights from Sumburgh, in Shetland, to each of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, from Stornoway to Glasgow, and from Kirkwall, in Orkney, to Aberdeen. In effect, the flights will put Flybe back into competition with Scottish operator Loganair (LM, Glasgow Int'l) whose own Flybe franchise agreement will end on August 31, 2017.

"This alliance with Eastern Airways is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the Flybe network," Flybe CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener said. "We already operate flights at a number of common airports and this will enable passengers to connect to a greater number of destinations, across the UK and into Europe."

Eastern Airways operates a fleet of thirteen Jetstream 41s, two EMB-170s, three ERJ-145s, and nine Saab 2000s on flights to nineteen destinations across the United Kingdom, France, Hungary, Italy, and the Isle of Man. At present, two Saab 2000s and one EMB-170 are operated for BA CityFlyer (CJ, London City).

According to the ch-aviation route database, Eastern Airways' Scottish operations focus on an Aberdeen hub serving Cardiff, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside, Leeds/Bradford, Newcastle, GB, Norwich, Southampton, Stornoway, and Wick in the UK and Rodez in France. It also connects Glasgow Int'l with the Isle of Man.