F1 charters, successful Manx flights raise ‘useful revenue’
CHARTER flights for a Formula One racing team and the Guernsey-Isle of Man route are bringing in ‘useful revenue’ for Aurigny as it looks to support the island’s Covid-19 recovery.
‘It has brought in some useful revenue, which we didn’t expect to have. We’re doing as much as we can to keep the business busy and wherever possible making some money,’ said Mark Darby, the airline’s chief executive officer, as it continues to adapt to latest developments around the pandemic.
‘The Isle of Man services have done incredibly well. When we first started we put about 1,500 seats on sale. We’re just passing 6,000 seats on sale. There’s been huge demand from both ends, it’s been 50/50. It’s great for hoteliers and hospitality businesses in both islands. It’s a profitable business.’
He added: ‘We’ve been doing the charter flying for one of the Formula One teams to Europe. I think we have got them signed up until September.
‘But one of the grands prix is in Barcelona – is that going to be cancelled now because of the spike in cases there?
‘That’s what we’ve been struggling with all the way through is just how volatile the situation is.
‘What you think you know and is certain one day, the next day is completely undone and you’ve got to redo your plans, and we’ve been doing that since March.’
He also noted the positive impact on revenue on services to Southampton and Alderney from Guernsey, particularly in terms of the Bailiwick staycation market that had helped the tourism sector.
The revenue generated from these operations had been making a ‘good contribution’ to reducing the £2m. estimated monthly losses projected at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, added Mr Darby.
Looking ahead, he highlighted how Aurigny – which is owned by taxpayers – had a central role to play in the island’s recovery from the pandemic by helping enable travel.
‘If the economy is to revive and to thrive, then being open for business and ensuring that anyone who wants to get here can get here reasonably easy, even if the actual demand is at a low level, has to be a central part of the plan.’
Aurigny was also ready to lift off with an expansion of its route network as soon as was possible. This had been done by ensuring the workforce, a substantial number of whom remained furloughed on reduced pay, maintained safety critical training.
‘We are keeping people trained and we are now bringing people back through the business, cycling them through so they maybe work for a couple of weeks and go back on furlough – and are replaced by someone else. That way we can keep everyone current.’
He added: ‘Nobody else is going to commit to coming to Guernsey other than on some subsidised basis. Therefore it makes little sense to be handing subsidies to other carriers when you have got your own.
‘We employ 300 people, 250 of them are in the Bailiwick at least and a lot of them are high-value jobs.
‘Every year, I think, we pay to the States over £3m. in income tax and that’s before you get the multiplier effect – that spend in the local economy is important.’