Aurigny kept quiet on plan to cancel services

AURIGNY did not tell the States that it was planning to cancel its summer services, it has emerged.

Economic Development president Deputy Charles Parkinson. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 28285132)
Economic Development president Deputy Charles Parkinson. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 28285132)

The airline announced last week that it was suspending its scheduled flights until August, although it would continue to offer lifeline services to Alderney and Southampton.

Aurigny works closely with the States’ Trading Supervisory Board, whose president Peter Ferbrache said that they did not know about its plans to suspend services.

But he said he understood the logic, since Aurigny had been advised that under the current States strategy for exiting the pandemic, the final phase – six, when the island would open travel outside the Bailiwick – would not be reached until October.

‘If the States changes its exit strategy, then Aurigny could change,’ he said.

Aurigny CEO Mark Darby said yesterday that it was certain it would be a key economic enabler as the island emerges from the crisis, ‘and plans to offer as full a range of air services as demand justifies as we play our part in getting things back to normal as quickly as possible’.

His comment was echoed by Economic Development president Charles Parkinson, who said the island will need to invest in connectivity to help it through the recession and that Aurigny could be an enabler.

‘But it needs to align its plans with government policy,’ he said.

‘For example, no one in government was advised that they would cancel flights to the end of August.’

Deputy Parkinson also said he will be making a statement about the work Economic Development has done on a cost-benefit analysis of the airport runway extension during this week’s States meeting.

Mr Darby said Aurigny took the ‘unusual step’ of cancelling the remaining schedule until the end of August for several reasons.

‘Most of the bookings between now and the end of August were made many months ago – or since March – on the basis that the crisis was going to be short-lived and substantially over by now,’ he said.

‘Clearly this is not the case. As such, the true demand for air travel is difficult to determine.’

Cancelling the flights meant they could be re-establish them and add to the schedule as and when demand returned, he said.

‘We can gauge this by closely monitoring the demand for the Southampton services as well as the pick-up in demand for air services on other UK regional airlines.

‘As soon as we believe that demand will support further flights we will progressively re-introduce services, initially to Gatwick and then Manchester.’

He hoped the virus crisis would be subsiding by autumn and it intended to release its winter 2020/21 programme soon, although he said that demand will continue to be constrained until neighbouring territories had the virus under control.

‘While we have furloughed 60% of our staff, we are on standby to restart with very little notice by maintaining training and “recency” of our crews.

‘We have been keeping in regular contact with STSB throughout this crisis.’

Deputy Parkinson said Economic Development is working on a recovery plan for tourism and other sectors, and a new Policy & Resources sub-committee will oversee the plans.

It could be that Guernsey’s tourism sector will benefit in some areas after the pandemic, but other areas were likely to be impacted negatively: ‘We do not yet know what the “new normal” looks like,’ he said.

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