A major union is pressing for the Government to make sure Flybe continues to operate.

It has been reported that airline bosses have held crunch talks with the Government to see if it could provide emergency funding for the firm and Unite says it is time ministers acted.

It is also understood Chancellor Sajid Javid will hold talks with the business and transport secretaries about whether to support a rescue deal for airline Flybe.

Andrea Leadsom and Grant Shapps will meet Mr Javid today to discuss whether a £100 million tax payment can be deferred until 2023, according to Sky News.

The plan is said to involve Flybe deferring this year's estimated air passenger duty bill of £106 million for three years, giving it the chance to survive the tough winter trading conditions.

Trade association Airlines UK, which represents UK carriers, has previously warned that the tax restricts connectivity and passenger growth.

Passengers on domestic flights pay £26 in air passenger duty for a return trip, with higher rates for longer flights and premium cabins.

The tax is expected to be worth £3.7 billion to the Treasury in 2019/20.

Last February, the Exeter-based carrier was bought for £2.2 million by the Connect Airways consortium – Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group's subsidiary Stobart Air and Cyrus Capital – following poor financial results.

It pledged to pump tens of millions of pounds into the loss-making airline to turn it around.

Flybe has been hit by a series of problems, including falling demand, rising fuel costs and the weakening of the pound.

If it collapses, it would be the second UK airline to fail in four months, following the demise of Thomas Cook.

While Flybe and the Government have declined to comment on the speculation, union Unite said it was time the Government acted.

The union, which is also seeking an urgent meeting with Flybe, said: “The Government must implement both the Airline Insolvency Review and the Insolvency and Corporate Governance Review at the earliest possible opportunity.

"It has previously committed to do so, but actions speak far louder than words.

“It is essential that the government plays an active role in helping to ensure that Flybe continues to operate.

"It is not acceptable for the Government simply to prepare for failure.

“The Government must demonstrate that it has learnt the lessons from the collapse of Monarch, which it failed to apply during the collapse of Thomas Cook."

Around 2,000 people are employed by the airline.

Flybe is Europe's largest regional carrier, flying around eight million passengers a year to 170 destinations across the continent.

It has a major presence at UK airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton.

Connect Airways chief executive Mark Anderson said in October that the airline would be renamed Virgin Connect and he wanted it to become "Europe's most loved and successful regional airline".

A Flybe spokeswoman said: "Flybe continues to focus on providing great service and connectivity for our customers, to ensure that they can continue to travel as planned.

"We don't comment on rumour or speculation."

Spokesmen for BEIS and the DfT issued identical statements which read: "We do not comment on speculation or the financial affairs of private companies."

Flybe put itself up for sale in November 2018 after warning after its profits.

As talks were ongoing with Connect Airways, Cumbrian businessman Andrew Tinkler also entered the fray.

He initially offered a solo rescue bid, which was dismissed by Flybe, then returned as part of a group of investors offering a rescue deal should the takeover collapse.

The airline confirmed in a statement published on the London Stock Exchange, that an investor group led by Bateleur Capital LLC and United States-based Mesa Air Group Inc, with support from Mr Tinkler and other “un-named institutional shareholders” had put forward an offer of a capital injection and replacement of funding should the takeover by Connect Airways hit the ground.

At the time, Mr Tinkler said he hoped the Flybe board would “continue engaging positively with regard to our outline proposal, for the benefit of all shareholders”.

However, the airline said the Connect Airways takeover was the only viable option.