Guernsey Press

‘More Gatwick slots needed’

MORE Aurigny slots are needed at Gatwick, CEO Nico Bezuidenhout has said.

Aurigny 's Embraer at Gatwick. The airport is the most popular route that the airline flies, but whether it will continue to be using its only jet aircraft for much longer could be decided this year.(30943509)

The airline is currently operating up to six rotations a day to the London airport and it is Guernsey’s most busy route, with more than half of air travel between Guernsey and the UK going through the airport in April.

‘We are trying to get additional slots at Gatwick,’ he said.

‘If we can’t get them, then we will look at other airports for the London market. All the London airports are in the mix.

'We are trying to strike a balance. This is an important decision.’

While holiday passenger numbers have bounced back strongly, business traveller response has been weaker and Mr Bezuidenhout said the airline needed to cater for its passengers.

He met with officials at Gatwick last week and he hoped to hear back over the next few weeks. Their response will dictate what happens next.

The airline has previously operated services between the island and Stansted and London City, but both routes had relatively weak demand compared with Gatwick.

Blue Islands has also previously operated services between Guernsey and London Southend Airport, while pre-pandemic, Flybe operated a popular subsidised route to Heathrow.

‘We need to look at how we will provide capacity for the London market,’ he said.

In April nearly 50,000 journeys were made between Guernsey and UK.

This compares with 56,000 in April 2019, before the pandemic.

Mr Bezuidenhout was speaking as the airline is poised to decide the future of its jet.

The Embraer jet was custom-made for Aurigny in 2014. It is larger than the airline’s ATRs and can seat 122, compared with the ATRs 72 seats.

Mr Bezuidenhout has been keen for the airline to move away from the jet.

He said it was getting older and less reliable and was more expensive to run that the ATRs.

‘The fuel cost per seat is 30% higher per seat and the emissions are higher too,’ he said.

‘So there are lots of reasons to support the view that the ATR would be better.’

He said he hoped to announce in August what the future of the aircraft would be.

If the jet was kept, Mr Bezuidenhout said he would open it up for more charter flights to pay its way.

‘The jet is an emotive topic for the island,’ he said.

‘But as it ages, its reliability will start to wane.

‘I need to be a position where we can simplify the fleet.’

He said he expected to take the business case to STSB by August, and was keen to give certainty to Aurigny staff.