Air rivals agree to work together to revive flights

AIRLINE rivals Aurigny and Blue Islands have agreed to work together on UK flights once the island’s borders reopen from July.

The two airlines, which have often battled each other on routes, are to run codeshare agreements on services to Southampton, Exeter and Birmingham as they seek to rebuild confidence in air travel. These arrangements are to run for an indefinite period.

Aurigny CEO Nico Bezuidenhout and his Blue Islands counterpart Rob Veron issued a joint statement today, saying they were delighted to be co-operating on services.

‘Our aim is to sustainably rebuild, preserving consumer choice and ensuring critical air connectivity as we come out of the pandemic.

‘We firmly believe this agreement will help to bring stability for both passengers and our employees.

‘While we remain competitors, we will continue to seek out areas where efficiencies may be gained from collaboration – ensuring the viability and sustainability of this essential part of island infrastructure.’

Both airlines will run services to the three UK airports and will sell schedules which may be flown by the other airline, depending on time and date of travel.

The Exeter and Birmingham services – which Aurigny had only just started following Flybe’s collapse, before the first lockdown in March 2020 – will be reworked to offer some same-day returns.

(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29457698)

Southampton, where both have continued to fly to over the past 12 months, in Blue Islands’ case from Jersey, will see a ‘collective effort to rebuild flight frequencies’ with a goal of providing ‘sustainable flight coverage’.

The codeshare deal is still subject to consultation with relevant authorities and will be phased, but is due to start with flights operating from the beginning of July, when travel restrictions should be lifted.

The airlines said they will remain independent, and pricing, promotion and customer handling will remain their own responsibility. The joint statement said there would continue to be a ‘healthy level of competitive tension’ between the two.

It is understood that as people return to travel, they will see fares similar to those pre-Covid.

Anticipating demand for aviation as travel restrictions ease will be a challenge for the airlines.

Last year just 185,707 passenger movements were made through Guernsey Airport and more than half of those were made during January and February, before the pandemic travel restrictions were implemented. This compares with 858,000 passenger movements in 2019.

.The two airlines operated a codeshare agreement on inter-island flights for two years which ended in 2016 when a mutual decision was taken to end it.

Under that agreement, Blue Islands operated the services with its ATR aircraft , while Aurigny took a fixed block of seats to market and sell and also did the ground handling in both islands.

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