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£825k subsidy for new Flybe link to Heathrow

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FLYBE’s new Heathrow route has been subsidised to the tune of £825,000 for the seven-month test period.

London Heathrow Airport. (Shutterstock)

The daily link has been welcomed by business groups, but there is an acknowledgement that it could hit Aurigny’s currently profit-making Gatwick operation.

‘When the States approved the open skies policy we knew [reductions in Aurigny passenger numbers] was something we had to expect,’ said Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher, a member of the States’ Trading Supervisory Board, which has political responsibility for the airline.

‘All the airlines are going to have to adapt to it and cope with it somehow.’

Deputy Kuttelwascher has been at the forefront of the campaign for a longer runway and improved air links.

If Aurigny traffic was to be impacted substantially, Deputy Kuttelwascher said the company might have to look at reducing the number of flights per day.

‘But they have just bought new ATRs, so it begs the question of whether that was a good idea?’ he said.

Deputy Kuttelwascher had been at odds with his committee over giving a States guarantee for a USD60m. loan to buy three new planes.

He was interested to see how much passenger traffic the new route would bring through the airport.

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‘It’s a very attractive route for tourism and Guernsey people wanting to travel afar.’

Deputy Kuttelwascher said Aurigny could expect some loss of passenger traffic but islanders could benefit as the price travelling between Gatwick and Heathrow is eliminated.

New routes can be subsidised by the States by an amount depending on schedules and the size of the aircraft.

The overall investment in the route during the seven-month trial beginning 31 March is £825,000.

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‘Of that, £678,000 is provided from the Future Guernsey Economic Fund, and £147,000 through the airport’s route discount policy,’ a spokesperson for Economic Development said.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) and Guernsey Chamber of Commerce welcomed the announcement of a daily Heathrow service operated by Flybe.

‘The daily flight, combined with Flybe’s extensive codeshare agreements, will materially improve access to and from the island for international connections,’ a spokesperson said.

‘By eliminating both transit and air passenger duty costs on codeshare flights, this link is expected to be cost effective as well as convenient for international travel to and from Guernsey.’

They agreed that the introduction of the route is consistent with feedback form the business community, with a majority of respondents to the 2018 joint IoD/Chamber survey calling for an airline offering a choice of domestic and international connections.

‘We encourage the business community and the island as a whole to take advantage of its Heathrow link to establish it as a permanent selling point for the island.’

The route will be operated by a 78 seat Bombardier Q400.

It will leave Guernsey at 2.40pm and leave Heathrow at 5.20pm.

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