What does future hold for Aurigny’s only jet aircraft?

AURIGNY’S jet could be deployed beyond the Gatwick operation, but a question mark hangs over its long-term future.

The future for Aurigny’s Embraer is open to question with the airline looking at its possible uses when travel restrictions are lifted, with a strong hint from chairman Kevin George that it will not be used almost exclusively on the Gatwick service. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29307358)
The future for Aurigny’s Embraer is open to question with the airline looking at its possible uses when travel restrictions are lifted, with a strong hint from chairman Kevin George that it will not be used almost exclusively on the Gatwick service. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29307358)

That was the message from Aurigny chairman Kevin George when he spoke to business leaders about how the airline will evolve in the years ahead.

Addressing a Guernsey Chamber webinar, he said the Embraer 195 could be used to fly to destinations in the north of the UK, such as Manchester, and raised the possibility of flights into Europe, making maximum use of the aircraft’s capabilities.

Aurigny could then use its ATR aircraft more on Guernsey-Gatwick operations as part of a strategy to better utilise its fleet.

As part of that vision, that could mean a growing network and schedule to ensure full aircraft in the sky making money rather than sitting under-utilised on the ground.

But Mr George acknowledged there was a question over the Embraer’s longer-term future after the issue was raised repeatedly by the webinar’s audience.

The taxpayer-owned airline has already moved to simplify its fleet to three aircraft types – the Embraer, new ATR 72-600s and Dorniers – as part of efficiency savings.

Asked whether consideration had been given to outsourcing the Gatwick service to reduce fleet complexity, he said: ‘Short answer based on our current thinking is no.

‘The reason for that is the Embraer was acquired to meet the particular needs of Gatwick and also to ensure that the take-off and landing slots for the runway were fully utilised and protected.

‘What I think we’ll start to see once we get back into normal operations is that the Embraer will start to be used for routes beyond Gatwick, potentially Manchester, possibly further north as well.

‘But we’ll keep the frequency to Gatwick by utilising and making the ATRs work harder.

‘There are questions around the Embraer. Single aircraft fleets are inherently expensive and carry a risk with them.

‘But that said, the Embraer is quite an efficient aircraft for what it does.

‘It’s obviously got more seating capacity at 122. So, where there are routes that need that, then the Embraer has its place.

‘So at the moment, the Embraer has its place. I think the biggest concern we have is that a single aircraft fleet is vulnerable and are there other ways of meeting that capacity?’

Another question again raised whether getting rid of the jet would simplify Aurigny’s fleet given fears that non-jet operations into Gatwick would not be allowed had not materialised.

‘The simple answer to that is yes, because we’d lose an aircraft type and we have just one aircraft in that fleet. However, to produce the same capacity you’d almost have to put two ATRs in place of one jet,’ said Mr George.

'There’s an interesting business case there. I think when we do get to the point with the Embraer that we need to be thinking about what to do, one of the obvious options, and that would make the airline more efficient, would be to go to an all-ATR fleet.

‘However, if we start venturing further afield into Europe, then you’d probably argue that the jet’s probably a better aircraft for that.

‘It’s probably one of the biggest questions that faces the airline in the next few years – what to do about the Embraer?’

Mr George also noted that while the Embraer was relatively young by aircraft standards – it was introduced in July 2014 – ‘some pretty big’ maintenance checks were due in the next few years.

‘To what extent can the network be met by ATRs? Is there a role for a jet? Is there a role for more than one jet? All options are open at the moment.

‘The thing, if you like as an airline man, that makes me nervous is having a singleton fleet because it involves risk and it’s expensive,’ said the Aurigny chairman.

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