Comments for article

Unhappy Guern

Open skies but not on any Aurigny route, hmmmm.

guern abroad

'Committee president Peter Ferbrache told a Scrutiny Management Committee hearing the committee was concerned that opening up the Gatwick route to competition could leave the island’s lifeline link exposed, as it has been in the Isle of Man, where Gatwick services are now very limited in comparison with the Channel Islands.'

Exactly we have seen how opening up the Jersey interisland route has left Guernsey very exposed with a regularly reported poor link to Jersey, quite rightly we cannot afford this to repeat pattern on Gatwick.

Devil's Advocate

Hybrid route for sure. That will allow operators to bring in additional business easily without disrupting our lifeline route.

WILLGSY

I dont think many people would say the present way is working, Aurigny just isn't able to cope with demand at a reasonable cost. There needs to be cheap flights to and from Guernsey, it wouldn't open the borders to immigration or crime, but it would make it easier and cheaper for the island to spread its cast and work with other business.

GFC fan

It's time for Guernsey to adopt an open skies policy.

Alvin

There was the Strategic Air LInks report of two years ago, which had numerous recommendations, but which has now, it would seem, been forgotten.

There was the Aurigny review of last year but still nothing has been published on its findings.

There was the ill-conceived attempt to get a new investigation into a runway extension undertaken and debated in the States and that is still pending.

Now the Committee for Economic Development are investigating an open skies policy. But will anything come of it ?

Does one not think that the States seem to be going round and round in circles ?

Not just with regards to local air-links and sea links but with practically every aspect of Guernsey life ? Waste management, education, etc etc.

The consequences of operating a full open skies policy are obvious :

1 - It could lead to more airlines, more destinations and lower fares. But there is no guarantee that it will.

2 - New airlines operating, as they see it, new routes to new destinations, ( such as Easyjet on the Gatwick route ), will demand financial sweeteners in order to "test the market".

3 - If one offers such financial sweeteners to new airlines, one has to offer the same benefits to existing operators : leading to less income and more costs at the airport and thus more losses to be covered by the tax-payer.

4 - Guernsey is unlike Jersey and the Isle of Man as it has its own state-owned airline which guarantees airlinks, unlike the other islands, but which is currently losing money which, in turn, has to be covered by the tax payer.

5 - Guernsey's prime route is the Gatwick route : which accounts for well over a third of all passengers.

6 - If an open skies policy is to be truly "open" it must also include that Gatwick route.

7 - If it does not but Guernsey can attract the likes of Easyjet from, say, Southend and / or Luton, or Liverpool, then Aurigny will still see a drop in traffic on its Gatwick, Stansted and / or East Midlands, or Manchester routes resulting in more losses for the taxpayer to support.

8 - The next two routes with the highest number of passengers are Southampton and Jersey routes, though, even together, they are still far less than the figures on the Gatwick route.

9 - Guernsey's state owned airline operates on neither route.

10 - The greatest decline in passenger numbers last year was, once again, the inter-island routes. Followed by Southampton. ( In contrast, Jersey had a whopping increase of 36 % on their Jersey-Southampton route - work that one out ! ).

Whilst Aurigny does make losses every year which is covered by the tax-payer, one should take note that it contributes a great deal to the local economy by employing a large number of persons not only directly but indirectly through the various supply companies that provide services to it, as well as being the major direct contributor to the airport's income. It also acts as a stimulant for the local finance and tourism industries.

So, in my opinion, Guernsey has a choice of three possibilities :

1 - Keep the current status quo, tweeking the existing fares and schedules of the airline.

2 - Implement a full open skies policy : allowing the likes of Easyjet in on the Gatwick route, downsizing Aurigny which would need to operate only 3 or 4 rotations per day using the Embraer, maintaining only an Alderney and Manchester route otherwise.

3 - Enhance and strengthen Aurigny by adding the Jersey and Southampton routes, entering into a franchise agreement with BA regardless of cost, and looking at expanding the fleet and adding destinations to the continent.

Which would you prefer ?

Wings

Alvin

Your attachment to the status quo will condemn Guernsey to a steady decline in business and tourism.

By all means protect the Gatwick route and re-define Aurigny's mandate to focus on that, whilst allowing Open Skies on all other routes.

Lengthen the runway (your bête noir) so that it becomes a viable proposition for most regional jets to operate to here with viable loads.

The Jersey model works. Just for once in our lives let's learn form our cousins over the water.

Devil's Advocate

The Jersey model works because

a) They've been a long-term UK tourist destination, young people go there because they did as kids, or their parents/grandparents did.

b) Everyone in the UK knows of Jersey potatoes, and everyone over the age of 40 knows about Bergerac too - both massive free advertising for the island.

c) They have a massive immigrant population from the UK who worked in the growing and hospitality industries since WW1. These people and their families provide a steady demand for travel to and from the UK.

d) They have 1.5 times the population of Guernsey.

Guernsey has none of those things, thus will never have the same level of flight options or prices.

Alvin

Actually Wings...

I would not necessarily say that option 1 is the best option - option three might be : the additional costs would need to be calculated but it might be worth the additional cost : I could not say until those additional costs are calculated.

If Guernsey did not have Aurigny and had not already invested so much into the airline then option 2 might be the only path.

A runway extension does not come into the equation - it would not be necessary for any of those three options.

The arguments for a runway extension have been as nonsensical as :

1 - "Showing the island is open for business"

2 - "having the same or better than Jersey"

3 - "build it and they will come"

But who will come ? There has been no evidence at all presented to support that there is any need or financial advantage whatsoever for extending the runway. And if there was, then one should extend it not just to be like Jersey but should add on an additional 500 metres or so in order that it can accommodate the latest B737s and Airbus 321s - which Jersey can not. Anyway that is all nonsense as Guernsey simply has no need for larger aircraft.

Young Local

All you ever say is 'there is no evidence they will come' there is also no evidence they won't come. An airline will not say 3 years before the completion of a runway extension whether they will begin operating to here, it does not make business sense, how will they know in 3 years time whether they will have the slots, planes, crew to fly? They won't, so they will not say whether they will fly here.

Also with all your options, fares cannot come down without competition simple as, and Aurigny will not start leasing/purchasing yet more aircraft flying to new destinations without breaking even, they won't want to risk it. Also openskies is something that seriously needs to be considered, airlines do not want to go through the 3 month waiting time to see whether a licence will be accepted or not, that is 3 months where they could have started the route from somewhere else.

guern abroad

Competition needs scale, Guernsey does not have the population size for competition to work as there are not enough bums to support multiple operators on the same routes.

Alvin

Young Local : I hope you have heard of market research. If not then do take a gander at some of the Apprentice UK episodes. :-)

Before someone builds something, and something pretty big by local standards, and before one splashes out 30 million quid on it all, one carries out a wee bit of market research. In this case, that will, amongst other things, identify which airlines would be potentially interested in flying to Guernsey, if the runway was extended, and then ascertain if those airlines would realistically and reasonably be expected to start such flights.

One does not build a blooming big white elephant of a runway extension and then, when no new flights arrive, cry out "But no one told us they would not come !"

guern abroad

What we could do with knowing if how much Jersey is paying for continued sweeteners so those other airlines land. A seat cost is really seat cost plus seat sweetener cost.

Progress

The stark reality is that Aurigny is not viable even with a monopoly on the Gatwick route. It has an unscalable business model, huge operating costs and an inability to interline with any major carriers. I wouldn't be surprised of we are on for a £7million loss this year.

There is also no evidence to suggest that the Gatwick slots have ever been under threat so the rationale in purchasing it has proven to be seriously floored.

Young Local

Exactly, pretty sure an airline would take up a route when 350000 passengers fly on it every year, many say if easyjet came in we'd be the same as the Isle of Man with just 2 flights a day to Gatwick, but surely if they looked at the figures that would be completely wrong, Isle of Man flys less than half the amount of passengers to Gatwick compared to what we do... figures tell the real story

Insider

Even if EJ came here they would only do so if they were the only operator on the route as history shows there is not enough traffic for two operators make a profit. Currently the LGW route is one that makes money for Aurigny so what happens then? Who underwrites Aurigny even more?

Then what happens when EJ reduce flights in the winter months and nobody can get here or out of here?

Then what happens when EJ decide another route can make them more money and pullout, leaving us with no link to LGW?

It is my understanding that EJ were only interested in operating a seasonal service to Guernsey. Leaving Aurigny and the tax-payer to fund the loss making winter service!

Alvin

With 300000 to 350000 passengers a year on the Gatwick route, it could support another operator like Easyjet. Bear in mind that when Easyjet showed interest in that route, they were looking at competing against Aurigny by replacing Flybe. But that was started before Aurigny rushed through the purchase of the Embraer, and, of course, was shelved with T & R threatening protectionist barriers.

Aurigny could probably still compete if Easyjet came in with just a couple of rotations a day, relying purely on the Embraer for three or four rotations a day. ( Bear in mind that Aurigny went head to head against Flybe and won - turning a market share on that route from one third to two thirds ! ). Easyjet could actually grow that route up to 400000 or even 450000 passengers a year but Aurigny, whilst saving on just operating the Embraer on that route, might lose out as they could see a drop in their average fare per passenger achieved. More seriously though is that their Stansted and London City routes would also suffer. And then, if Easyjet increased the number of flights and dumped the fares, Aurigny would be in serious trouble. Likewise, if Easyjet were to also operate a Liverpool and / or Southend route, Aurigny's routes to Manchester and London would suffer.

Interesting dilemma !

guern abroad

Perhaps you forget Guernsey used to fly to Heathrow.

Insider

No spare slots at LGW means any airline wanting to expand would love these valuable slots!

Devil's Advocate

Progress, Why do you think the Gatwick slots were bought in the first place? There's a long history of airlines pulling their Guernsey routes - BA, KLM, British Midland, etc. etc. The simple fact is that any airline other than a Guernsey-owned one will only have one aim - make as much money as possible for their shareholders at the expense of everything else. That is why the island has to own Aurigny, to protect it's lifeline routes. We simply cannot risk having those lifeline routes run by an airline that has no loyalty to the island.