Shares in Flybe took off on Friday following reports that Virgin Atlantic is in talks about a takeover bid for the struggling airline.
Virgin, part owned by Sir Richard Branson, is thought to be vying with Stobart to buy Flybe and is interested in its take-off and landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Flybe shares were up nearly 20% in morning trade at 11.4p.
The regional airline put itself up for sale last week after warning over profits earlier in the year.
The Exeter-based carrier is battling challenging conditions in the airline industry and has been hit with falling demand and a £29 million hit from rising fuel costs and the weak pound.
Flybe has 78 planes operating from smaller airports including London City, Southampton and Norwich, and flies to destinations across the UK and Europe.
It carries around eight million passengers a year and Virgin would look to attract customers into its long-haul network via Flybe’s domestic routes, according to Sky News.
Trade unions have already raised concerns over the impact of a Flybe’s sale on the carrier’s 2,300 employees.
In half-year results announced last week, Flybe saw cost-cutting help lift underlying pre-tax profits to £9.9 million from £9.2 million a year earlier.
But statutory pre-tax profits for the six months to September 30 more than halved to £7.4 million from £16.1 million a year earlier.
It saw group revenues fall 10% or 2.4% on an underlying basis to £409.2 million after it cut capacity by 9%.