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Harsh words fly over new inter-island route

Harsh words fly over new inter-island route

Friday 01 March 2019

Harsh words fly over new inter-island route


Blue Islands has hit out at Aurigny’s recent decision to reintroduce flights between Jersey and Guernsey twice daily, predicting that competition on this route is “unsustainable” and that Guernsey taxpayers will have to bail them out.

The strongly critical statement from Blue Islands questions Aurigny’s “commercial rationale” to “return to the inter-island route that [it] has previously vacated because of the significant losses it made when operating,” flights between the two biggest Channel Islands.

Arising out of Aurigny’s decision to bring back its Jersey to Guernsey and Guernsey to Southampton routes after a five-year hiatus, Blue Islands – who are now their direct competitors for these routes – has suggested the move is hypocritical and is “unsustainable.”

Although Blue Islands say “it is difficult to understand the commercial rational behind the decision… to re-enter these markets,” Aurigny explained they would help it reach a “break-even position” and would “offer customers greater choice, reliability, and an additional inter-island business connection.” 

Jersey guernsey

Pictured: Aurigny's return to the inter-island route puts them in direct competition with Flybe and Blue Islands.

Aurigny had been a stalwart presence across Jersey and Guernsey, having flown between both islands since 1969. But that stopped in 2014 when, after a decade of competition with Blue Islands on the inter-island route, the airline signed a deal marking the end of their Jersey presence. 

After five years away, they'll now be flying to Jersey again in May. 

Despite Aurigny’s optimism about the return to these routes, Blue Islands – who run a maximum of ten flights per day between the two biggest Channel Islands – predict a much different picture by pointing out that they had 77,000 empty seats on these routes last year.

This figure, they say, constitutes “almost half of the capacity operated by Blue Islands” as well as warning against Aurigny operating their own flights on these routes as it would add “some 50,000 additional seats to the existing surplus.” 

aurignyMarkDarby.jpg

Pictured: Chief Executive Mark Darby said these new routes would help them achieve their States-set objective of being in a "break-even position."

The Blue Islands’ statement also implies that Aurigny’s return to these routes is a hypocritical decision given their previous position on the matter. The statement reads: “A return to the inter-island route that Aurigny has previously vacated because of the significant losses it made when operating the route is certainly a surprise.”

It continues: “This move is also at odds with the comprehensive ‘Aurigny Strategic Review Report’ published in May 2017 by Deputy Lyndon Trott, Stuart Falla MBE and Dr Andy Sloan which stated, ‘A number of stakeholders advocated that Aurigny should resume services to Jersey. The panel understands that if Aurigny as currently managed were to be asked to operate the Guernsey-Jersey route that the frequency of services and the price per seat would be roughly the same as is currently obtained from the present Blue Islands service provider. To replace one airline with another would achieve little for the travelling public.’”

Blue Islands lounge

Pictured: Blue Islands say that almost half of their seats on these routes were empty in 2018.

Bringing their statement to a close, Blue Islands say: “In our view the oversupply of capacity (and associated losses) will once again prove to be unsustainable most likely resulting in further tax payer subsidy of Aurigny. This will no doubt be considered as part of the recently announced review into the efficiency of Aurigny by the Scrutiny Management Committee and the States Trading Supervisory Board.”

Meanwhile, full schedules for the new Aurigny routes will be available for booking from today.

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