flybe. (BE, Exeter) has been talking to its airport partners over its unpaid landing fees, a sum thought to run into millions of pounds, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph. These discussions took place after the UK government granted the airline more time to pay its outstanding GBP106 million (USD138 million) Air Passenger Duty (APD) bill and offered a potential state loan - although both are yet to be formalised - to keep flybe. in the air.

It is understood that the airport landing fee talks have been led by Mark Anderson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Connect Airways, which owns flybe., at some of its biggest bases - namely Birmingham Int'l, Glasgow Int'l, Aberdeen Dyce and Southampton. While many affected airports would be supportive of helping the ailing carrier, the landing fee deferrals could also be detrimental to their own finances, given the scale of flybe. operations at some of the facilities.

At UK airports such as Southampton, Exeter, Belfast City, and Newquay, the airline commands 90%, 85%, 79%, and 74% of weekly frequencies, respectively. However, Manchester Int'l and Birmingham are the carrier's biggest operations in terms of capacity, with the carrier offering around 20,000 weekly seats each at both airports.

A Birmingham Airport spokesperson said: “flybe. is an important carrier to us and the Midlands region but we do not comment on commercial terms concerning any of our airlines.”

The government’s decision to help flybe. has drawn comment from among its competitors, with the most vocal being IAG International Airlines Group, owner of British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), and Ryanair (FR, Dublin Int'l). The Irish airline group's CEO Michael O'Leary issued an open letter via Ryanair's Twitter account on January 27 to Sajid Javid, the UK Chancellor.

The airline executive again lambasted the UK government, saying its support of flybe. was "in breach of state aid rules"; that the airline was backed by "billionaire shareholders...not willing to put their hand in their own deep pockets," and; that flybe. was a "business that has lurched from failure to failure over the last 20 years" and "a loss-making turkey."

O'Leary urged Javid to reduce APD "for all airlines and passengers that use regional airports." In concluding the tweet, he asked the Chancellor "to end this uncertainty by publishing details of your government's bailout for flybe." and "let all its competitors see what you are trying to hide."