Alderney tourism fears with fewer UK flights
ALDERNEY visitor numbers could be decimated next year, businesses have warned, as Aurigny has reduced the number of Southampton flights.
The summer schedule offers 7,000 fewer seats between May and October.
Just two rotations per day will operate during Alderney Week, which in the past has had six flights or more on and off the island.
The reason for the reduced schedule is because from February, Aurigny will have only one Dornier aircraft and crew plying the Alderney routes. A second Dornier will be kept as spare.
A third and older aircraft, G-LGIS, needs a new wing, costing around £500,000.
The changed times of the Southampton flights has also caused dismay.
Both the last outgoing and incoming ones have been brought forward by about 90 minutes, squeezing the amount of time people on day trips have to go to appointments or meetings.
After discussions with the States of Alderney and Guernsey, Aurigny has added two extra rotations to Guernsey to the daily schedule.
Nigel Lawrence, vice-president of the Alderney Chamber of Commerce, said the changes to both timings and frequency of the Southampton flights could ‘devastate’ businesses on the island.
‘It’s a huge worry. It’s now virtually impossible to go to a meeting in London and return in a day and it’s impossible for people to come to Alderney for a day’s work or a meeting.
‘In addition, a lot of elderly people have medical appointments in Southampton, especially for eye treatments. They will be forced to spend a night there now at their own expense.
‘To a certain extent we have some sympathy because the PSO still isn’t sorted out with the States of Guernsey. The length of time that has taken is disgraceful.’
From the end of July, tourists, second home owners and residents’ families pour into Alderney, and Alderney Week, held between 1 and 9 August this year, traditionally doubles the island’s population.
Those who come annually usually book flights as soon as they are released.
‘The few flights available will fill up very quickly and hotels and other accommodation will be immediately impacted by the limits on people who can get here,’ said Mr Lawrence.
‘Hopefully the extra Guernsey rotations could ameliorate the impact. But most of Alderney’s second home owners are from the south of England and depend upon the direct Southampton route.’
Alderney States member Steve Roberts said he would lobby politicians in Guernsey to repair the ‘rundown’ service.
‘This service cannot be run on two aircraft. We will be down to one aircraft even more than we have been this year, when three were supposedly available.
‘I’ve asked the States of Alderney to write a strong letter to the States of Guernsey signed by every single Alderney States member in order to show how united we are on this matter.’
Policy and Finance committee chairman James Dent said that in the last meeting with Economic Development on the PSO, Alderney States members had ‘stressed the need for a three-plane solution’ and the need to retain the Southampton link.
Why the wing has to be replaced
AURIGNY has reiterated its commitment to Alderney while at the same time confirming that the delay in completing the public service obligation (PSO) process is behind its decision to reduce its service next summer.
It has given clarification of the position regarding the wing on G-LGIS, its older Dornier 228 aircraft, following Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher’s explanation to the States.
The airline said that the wing would have to be replaced shortly as its ‘life’ , which is determined by the manufacturer, expires.
Currently, G-LGIS has around 300 landings remaining – about two to three months – until it will need to undergo this extensive engineering and design work which will take four to six months to complete.
A ‘donor’ wing has been sourced and the expertise is on hand, but Aurigny is awaiting financing from the States of Guernsey before proceeding, as this work will cost around £500,000.
‘We are fully committed to the Alderney service, but are concerned that PSO will not commence until autumn 2020,’ a spokesman said.
‘Without certainty over the PSO or further financial commitment we will only to able to provide a two aircraft operation from early 2020 – one active and one spare.’