The union says union representatives and the workforce are overwhelmingly opposed to Flybe’s plans, which cover line operations throughout Britain and the Maintenance Repair Operation (MRO) at the company’s headquarters in Exeter. Prospect says an engineering capability adds value to the business.
Negotiator John Stevenson said: “Flybe’s proposals for engineering are ill-thought through and will damage the future viability of the airline. The message is clear that engineering is not required if you want to run an airline. This mistaken view continues to be challenged by Prospect at every opportunity.
“Although Flybe has a history of mismanagement stretching back many years, it was hoped that when the previous board of directors were removed, things would begin to improve. Many of the decisions taken now by those running Flybe have the support of members. For example, the airline has employed too many aircraft and the decision to reduce, whilst painful, has logic.”
However, it has been made clear by the company that engineering is not seen as part of the core business, and it is Prospect’s view that a properly staffed and structured in-house engineering capability will add value to the company and provide the level of robustness that the proposed commercial plan requires.
Furthermore a properly managed and utilised MRO allows control over its own base maintenance while providing a reduction in the maintenance costs of the Flybe fleet by offsetting revenue from third-party work against the cost of Flybe’s maintenance costs.
Flybe says the unreliability of their Q400 turboprop aircraft can be improved by incorporating a number of modifications. Engineers on the ground say this is delusional and that however many modifications are undertaken, the reliability of the aircraft will only be improved by around 0.1 per cent. However, the large number of airborne failures may be improved slightly.
Stevenson said removing engineering cover from Aberdeen, Inverness and Jersey will seriously impact on the punctuality and reliability of aircraft, which in turn will have a negative impact on passenger confidence, forcing them to seek alternative airlines or surface transport in the regions where alternative air transport is not an option.
In addition, Flybe intend to allow pilots to carry out some maintenance tasks such as bird strike inspections. This is yet another proposal based on finances which overlooks the need for trained and skilled engineering staff. It seems clear that finances are more important than punctuality and safety.
It is evident that Aviation Services has been denied investment, mainly due to short-sighted financial management. If Aviation Services is not viewed as integral now then this position is unlikely to change in the medium-term and business opportunities are likely to be squandered.
Stevenson said: “What is clear is that even after these cost cutting measures, there could be further reductions in the number of employees, either through outsourcing of the remainder of line maintenance or the sale of the MRO facility. Once this highly skilled and experienced workforce is disbanded, either through outsourcing or redundancy, there is no other airline or third party maintenance provider with the experience and skill levels to sustain such a niche operation. Once the engineering workforce is lost, Flybe will realise what it has lost. Once it has gone it will be impossible to rebuild.”