The government is estimating its spend on maintaining Jersey's lifeline air links will be "significantly below" the £330,000 originally set aside to keep the island connected to the UK.
Responding to questions from Express about the contract with Blue Islands, officials said the budget was for a "worst-case scenario", and that they actually expected ticket sales to offset the cost of maintaining the routes to a significant degree.
The value of the contract, £330,000, was revealed in response to a written question from Deputy Steve Ahier to the Minister for Economic Development Senator Lyndon Farnham earlier this week.
The Deputy asked how much financial assistance has been given to the airline to maintain the lifeline flights and whether any other airlines will be supported going forward.
Pictured: Deputy Steve Ahier, who asked the Economic Development Minister about the contract.
To this, Senator Farnham explained that “the contract with Blue Islands has a minimum term of three months and up to £330,000 has been allocated to provide these essential flights.”
He added that “Blue Islands are also eligible to apply for payroll support for any Jersey-based employees.”
In terms of supporting other airlines, the Minister said that “restoring air connectivity will be critical to the recovery of the island’s economy in the months ahead” and that Government “stand ready to discuss tailor-made incentives and support with each of our airline partners – none of them are immune from the impact of covid-19."
When asked by Express to elaborate on this contract, a spokesperson for Government stated: “The contract with Blue Island has a standing charge of £15,000 per week. There is a further charge for each return journey (rotation) the airline makes. Income from the £100 per leg passenger fee, less taxes, is offset against what the Government is charged. Each location has a different cost per rotation and is calculated by subtracting the net passenger income from the cost of the rotation.”
This means that any passenger’s ticket fee (£100 per leg) reduces the amount of money paid out by Government. The spokesperson emphasised that, as a result, “the actual contract cost is currently anticipated to be significantly below that amount.”
Pictured: The government estimated that the overall contract cost will be lower than £330,000 due to the number of passengers using the routes.
They stated: “The contract with Blue Islands is based on three components. These are a weekly fixed standing charge, a per rotation charge (that varies depending on the destination airport) and a passenger fare rebate. Whilst the first two elements are costs under the contract, the fare rebate reduces the total cost to Government under the contract.
“The fare rebate is broadly calculated based on the ticketed income from passengers less UK airport taxes and passenger fees. The £330,000 original budget was a worst-case scenario, that assumed limited income. The actual contract cost is currently anticipated to be significantly below that total amount.”
The comments came as the island looks to move down to Level Two next week, with plans to shift down to Level One in early July, allowing for increased sea and air travel to and from Jersey.
Ahead of that, Ports of Jersey yesterday published detailed guidance about how to travel safely during the pandemic.
Effective from 8 June, staff and all travellers or those using the Airport Post Office must wear their own face mask – either surgical or made of cloth.
All passengers booked to travel on ‘lifeline’ flights operated by Blue Islands on behalf of the Government must wear face masks except passengers who have a medical reason for not wearing one or children under six years old.
Pictured: All passengers booked on lifeline flights operated by Blue Islands must wear face masks.
In order to ensure physical distancing is followed, the only people allowed entry into the terminal buildings will be airport staff or travellers and anyone dropping off or picking up passengers should arrange to do so outside of the buildings.
A range of other measures are also being put in place, including:
Commenting on the new measures, Passenger Services Manager for Ports of Jersey, Maria Le Tiec, said: “We’ve been working alongside our business partners on this plan for a number of weeks now to ensure that although we’re not currently fully operational, we have taken steps to ensure appropriate safer travel measures are put into place.
“The health and safety of our customers and staff remains vitally important to us and we’ll take appropriate measures to ensure their journey, while different than usual remains as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”
Blue Islands CEO, Rob Veron, added: “The continued safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority, which is why we have implemented a robust programme of well-being measures, including requesting that passengers wear face masks along with our cabin crew when flying.”
Ports of Jersey say that, although no passenger services are currently operating, similar measures will also be put in place at both the Elizabeth Terminal and Albert Terminal at St. Helier Harbour in preparation for when restrictions are eased, and sea travel can resume.
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