Open skies will ‘irrevocably damage’ air links – Aurigny
GUERNSEY’s air links will be ‘irrevocably damaged’ if the States approves an open skies approach, according to the chief executive of Aurigny, who said members should learn from the lessons of other sub-scale jurisdictions that ‘have lived to regret their decision’.
The States-owned airline has written to States members warning against the proposed changes to the air transport licensing policy.
Economic Development’s policy letter will go to the Assembly tomorrow with recommendations to move to an open skies policy for all routes except London Gatwick and Alderney.
Blue Islands chairman Derek Coates and chief executive Rob Veron have already predicted it would have ‘devastating’ implications and would lead to new operators ‘cherry-picking’ routes to the detriment of their long-term sustainability.
Now Aurigny CEO Mark Darby has added his voice, saying that the proposals ‘do not appear to be evidence-based’ and would likely result in short-term destabilisation of key routes.
‘We are seriously concerned that air services in Guernsey will be irrevocably damaged, and once the open skies genie is out of the bottle, it will not be possible to revert to the existing system,’ he said.
‘It’s important to remember, the current licensing system does not prevent new routes being developed. Today there are routes which are licensed but unserved. If airlines believed that new routes would be viable, they would be operated.
‘As others have already, quite rightly, warned, the short-term perceived benefits resulting from deregulation on routes such as Southampton and Manchester would not be sustainable.
‘In recent history, we have seen other airlines try to compete on price and service in the short-term, but, unable to accept the low revenues, one of them has exited the route. Fares then returned to previous, or higher, levels and frequency of service drops.’
Mr Darby said the current regulations stipulate year-round service levels. There would be no such obligations with an open skies approach, he said.
‘Without these safeguards, off-season frequencies will be reduced,’ he said.
‘While it is true that many jurisdictions have adopted open skies, many others, whose air routes, like ours, are sub-scale, seasonal, but above all essential, have not deregulated.
‘Some that have adopted open skies have lived to regret their decision. The Isle of Man is a prime example, where there has been a substantial deterioration in air services, to the detriment of the island’s economy. The number of destinations it serves has almost halved over the last 10 years and the number of weekly London frequencies has dropped from 63 to 35.’
Mr Darby said there were ways to improve the current licensing process while supporting Economic Development’s plans to encourage new routes and reduce fares.
n Also on the States’ agenda for tomorrow is Environment & Infrastructure’s local market housing review and its proposal to set lower housing targets. Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier will provide an update on the island’s financial situation and a bid will be made to get more political members on the States’ Trading Supervisory Board.