December 20, 2016 / 7:42 AM / 2 years ago

Britain's Flybe names former head of rival CityJet as CEO

(Reuters) - British regional airline Flybe Group Plc (FLYB.L) named Christine Ourmieres-Widener as chief executive, bringing in the former head of rival CityJet to help it navigate a tough European airlines market.

The appointment comes two months after the surprise departure of Saad Hammad as CEO, leaving Flybe rudderless at a time when European airlines face lower demand due to Brexit uncertainty, a string of attacks in Europe and depressed appetite for corporate travel, even as the market has seen some additional capacity.

Flybe, which connects British regional airports to London and other European cities, cautioned in November that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union could affect the aviation industry “operationally and commercially” and posed short-term challenges because of the pound’s sharp slide.

Flybe said on Tuesday Ourmieres-Widener, who has spent her entire career in the aviation and travel industry and was most recently chief global sales officer at American Express Global Business Travel, would start as CEO from Jan. 16, 2017.

The airline also announced new routes from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow starting in March 2017, as it looks to capitalise on slots that become available under the terms of EU clearance for British Airways parent IAG’s (ICAG.L) acquisition of BMI.

Liberum analyst Gerald Khoo said in a note he expected Flybe to pursue additional codeshare agreements with long haul airlines operating into Heathrow.

Most of the long haul airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic that Flybe has agreed codeshare deals with at other airports also fly from Heathrow.

“We expect more extensive codeshare agreements, along with smaller and cheaper aircraft, to offer Flybe’s best chance of delivering a better financial outcome than Virgin Red’s failed services,” Khoo said.

Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair and Gopakumar Warrier

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