Guernsey Press

‘I raised concerns with Aurigny months ago’ - Vermeulen

Economic Development’s lead member for tourism has revealed that he raised concerns with Aurigny about reliability two months ago.

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Deputy Simon Vermeulen, Economic Development’s tourism lead. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33063054)

The airline’s services have faced disruption recently amid changes to its fleet of aircraft and some leading voices in the tourism industry have accused the company of increasing prices while reducing capacity.

Simon Vermeulen told the Guernsey Press Politics Podcast that he could see problems brewing weeks ago but Aurigny’s management assured him there was no cause for concern.

‘I had fears and concerns about the reliability and I expressed these probably two months ago to the manager of Aurigny and he said there was nothing to worry about,’ said Deputy Vermeulen.

  • Listen to the full podcast with Deputy Simon Vermeulen

‘[He said] there wouldn’t be any problems with transition, it would be seamless, we’d wet lease aircraft, we’d get extra aircraft, and that these fears were unfounded.’

Deputy Vermeulen, who has more than four decades’ experience in the tourism industry, felt his concerns had already been vindicated and that the airline’s response to him at the time was unrealistic.

‘I travelled in December and was delayed. I travelled in January and was delayed and spent three nights at the airport at Gatwick.

‘Talking to lawyers and business people, these delays have been going on all the way through, and recently it has been falling down.’

Aurigny described a series of disruptive events two weekends ago as ‘a black swan event’ and offered passengers an unqualified apology.

‘It was described as a black swan event, but we used to have a puffin on the tail of Aurigny not a black swan,’ said Deputy Vermeulen.

‘It’s not just hotels but all business and all islanders – the island can’t afford a level of connectivity like that.’

Economic Development president Neil Inder has declined interviews and refused to talk publicly about Aurigny’s operational issues, although he confirmed that he had written to the airline.

Deputy Inder may face questions about air links following an update statement on his committee’s work which he must provide at next week’s States meeting.

Deputy Vermeulen was concerned that Guernsey’s increasing reliance on Aurigny in recent years had left passengers and the island generally facing ‘a lot of problems’ and he questioned whether the airline was able to do all it wanted.

‘If you’re trying to do a Paris link, a London City link, a Stansted link, a Gatwick link, and all the other flights – Bristol, Ireland and everything else – with three aeroplanes and two Dorniers to Alderney, maybe that’s not deliverable,’ he said.

‘What then happens? Do they come back and want a load more cash to buy a load more planes?

‘Might it be better to spread our security and get another airline to fly maybe one route or two, here and there?’