Guernsey Press

Aurigny set to return a profit in second quarter

AURIGNY is set to return a profit in the second quarter, with borders open again and islanders keen to travel.

Aurigny CEO Nico Bezuidenhout has indicated a brighter future for the airline, with its first April profit in a decade, growing demand for bookings and the ClearVision fog-busting technology almost ready to go live on its three ATRs. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30930954)

But CEO Nico Bezuidenhout has warned that it was unlikely it would make a profit for the whole year, as travel turmoil continues.

Traveller numbers rose sharply in spring, with Aurigny posting its first April profit in a decade.

‘Demand has rebounded very nicely, especially in quarter two and quarter three,’ he said. ‘Looking forward it is pretty healthy.’

He said that the first quarter had been much more challenging, with a spike in Omicron variant Covid cases in January, two bad storms in February and a rise in oil prices in March after the invasion of Ukraine.

But as Easter approached, things started to look up.

‘Quarter two is looking especially strong,’ he said. ‘At the moment it is 10% above 2019 levels.’

The airline is in the middle of a five-year turnaround plan and had aimed to break even or turn in a small profit in 2023.

Despite passenger numbers being strong over the spring and summer, Mr Bezuidenhout said he did not expect to be profitable this year.

‘There is big demand now, will it be followed by a trough?’ he said.

But he was optimistic about the future of the airline.

‘Everything has to start somewhere,’ he said. ‘This financial year we are in, we could make a profit, but it is unlikely.’

He said that due to the island nature of the Bailiwick, traveller numbers had rebounded more quickly than in the UK.

Most islanders did not leave the island during the pandemic, due to the number of cases and travel uncertainty.

He said he was optimistic about the third quarter, but it was hard to predict, as travellers were now often only booking two or three weeks out from travel dates.

‘The downside with demand being quite strong is that not all the infrastructure is ready,’ he said.

A number of UK airports have reported long queues and staff shortages, leading to flight delays, with Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester suffering some of the biggest issues.

Aurigny has not been immune, with a number of Covid cases over the Platinum Jubilee weekend knocking out back-up crews and leading to flight disruption.

But Mr Bezuidenhout said that as the airline had kept running during the pandemic, staff did not need to be rehired, retrained or undergo lengthy security checks – issues that have led to problems for many larger airlines.

But the airline is having to cope with UK airport staff shortages and knock-on affects from other airlines having issues.

‘We try and mitigate it, but delays are inevitable,’ he said.

‘We are in not in the same position [as UK airlines] but that also came at a cost to all of us as taxpayers.’

Mr Bezuidenhout has been keen to keep planes in the air as much as possible in a bid to get the airline back to profitability and this has led to a tightening of the schedules. This makes it vulnerable to knock-on delays.

But despite this he said that 90% of Aurigny flights were operating on time – taking off within 15 minutes of their expected departure time.