Virgin, part owned by Sir Richard Branson, is believed to be competing with Stobart Air to buy Flybe and is interested in its take-off and landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Flybe, the airline with the biggest number of destinations out of Belfast City Airport, put itself up for sale recently after warning over profits earlier in the year.
Belfast City is the third largest operating base for the Exeter-based carrier and is battling challenging conditions in the industry, hit with falling demand, rising fuel costs and weak sterling.
Flybe has 78 planes operating from smaller airports including London City, Southampton, Belfast City and Norwich, and flies to destinations across the UK and Europe.
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. However, 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.