Guernsey Press

‘Alderney would not be well served by ATRs’

A WOULD-BE competitor on air routes in the Channel Islands has criticised plans to spend £24m. on improving and extending Alderney’s runway and rebuilding the airport terminal.

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Air Alderney chief pilot David Donovan in one of its Islander aircraft. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31458407)

The people behind Air Alderney, which is currently unable to compete on the Alderney-Guernsey route, say that they do not believe that the island would be well-served by incumbent operator Aurigny using larger ATR aircraft on the route.

Operations manager Alex Cray said the island needed a scale of aircraft appropriate to Alderney.

‘1.5% population movement is the normal daily capacity that a location needs. Aurigny appearing to be offering 10%, which is huge. You are going to end up flying a 72-seater aeroplane to Southampton with 11 people on it. And no airline wants to be flying with empty seats,’ he said.

A runway extension would allow Aurigny to stop using the 19-seat Dornier aircraft on the route and replace with much larger ATR72 for Alderney and the rest of its routes, thereby simplifying its operations and saving costs.

Alderney politicians are behind the plans, which are estimated to cost £24m., but there are many opposed to that level of spending in Guernsey and even in Alderney. The matter will be before the States of Alderney, along with a recommendation for the island to borrow up to £3.5m. to support the project, at its meeting next week, before being discussed by the States of Guernsey the following week.

Air Alderney received an air operator licence from the Civil Aviation Authority in November 2021, which enables it to fly charter, cargo and scheduled flights, but it has so far run no scheduled services, and been unable to start scheduled flights between Alderney and Guernsey.

‘The route is protected under the public service obligation agreement, meaning any application for scheduled flights would be rejected. Aurigny have exclusivity on that route, because its said not to be profitable. We think it could be profitable,’ Mr Cray said.

‘When we speak to people on Alderney, and ask them what kind of service they want – they say we just want a service.

‘Ultimately we would like to be running scheduled services between Alderney, the UK, Jersey and France, but the bread-and-butter of our service is between Alderney and Guernsey and that’s what we want to get sorted out.’

The airline has not run any scheduled services but is available for charter. It said it had had a ‘good’ summer of business this year.

‘The charter business has been going really well, especially during Covid. We have been filling the gaps, doing things like flying people with their dogs,’ said chief pilot David Donovan.