Low-cost airline Flybe is ramping up the pressure on rival easyGroup with the launch of Flybe Cruise before the end of the month.
The airline struck a deal with leading cruise broker Voyana to tap into the fastest growing sector in the travel industry. Flybe aims to become one of the largest suppliers of UK-to-UK cruises and is also planning European expansion.
The deal will allow travellers’ flying into Southampton on Flybe to join cruises, on ships including the QE2 and the Oriana with companies such as Cunard, Royal Carribean International and P&O, to locations including Western Europe, Transatlantic, the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and the Norwegian Fjords.
The move aims to drive sales for the airline but also strengthens Flybe’s dominance of the Southampton region where it is the largest scheduled airline.
Marketing director Simon Lilley says this is not a backwards move towards package holidays but a “synergy of two dominant travel industries in one region”.
He adds: “About 40% of cruise passengers out of Southampton live in a Flybe catchment area and therefore we offer the ideal vehicle to start their journey.”
Simon Lilley denies the new product is an attack on easyGroup, whose chairman and founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou invented the low-cost airline model with the launch of easyJet in 1995. He later transferred the business template to a range of products including easyCruise, which launched in 2005.