Flybe Chairman French Departs Amid Airline’s Strategic Review

Flybe Group Plc, Europe’s largest independent regional airline, said Chairman Jim French will leave the carrier after 23 years amid a strategic review to restore profitability.

French, 60, will be replaced by Simon Laffin as non-executive chairman with immediate effect, the Exeter, England-based company said in a statement today. Laffin, 54, is also chairman of health care property business Assura Group Ltd.

French, who became chief executive officer in 2001 and added the chairman’s role in 2005, handed the CEO role to former EasyJet Plc executive Saad Hammad on Aug. 1. Hammad has begun a series of management changes and a restructuring at the airline with a strategic review to be completed this month.

“Flybe has many challenges ahead, but I believe that under the new management team the group will be developed into a leading regional aviation operator,” Laffin said in the statement.

Management is targeting 40 million pounds ($63.8 million) of cost savings in fiscal year 2014. In September, Hammad announced that Flybe U.K. and Flybe Outsourcing Solutions would be disbanded and integrated into one operation.

Britain’s biggest domestic airline is seeking to bolster its balance sheet amid reduced demand and high fuel prices. The company sold landing slots at London Gatwick airport to EasyJet for 20 million pounds, is renegotiating pilot pay, and has delayed deliveries of regional jets from Embraer SA.

FlyBe shares have advanced 28 percent this year, valuing the business at 49 million pounds.

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