Flybe wobble shows value of own airline
AS TOURISM officers at Visit Guernsey digested the sunny news that the total number of air passengers travelling to Guernsey is up 6%, a sizeable cloud was hovering on the horizon.
The future of Flybe was once again in doubt.
A year after the airline was seemingly rescued by a consortium buyout it has been locked in high-pressure talks with the Conservative government.
Without the UK agreeing to defer a multi-million-pound air passenger duty bill for Flybe – and therefore other carriers – there was a fear that the airline might fold.
That would have been disastrous, not only for its 2,400 staff but for regional connectivity as the UK’s biggest operator of domestic flights.
For there would have been no guarantee in the short term that other regional airlines were either capable or willing to step in and cover the deficit.
The Channel Islands joined airports as far afield as Anglesey and Aberdeen in hoping it did not have to sweep up the pieces of Flybe’s failure and start trying to restore travel links.
Flybe and its partners are maintaining a tightlipped ‘business as usual’ response to speculation about its future.
But the noise will not die down until there is confirmation that Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital have poured in the necessary cash to turn the airline around.
Last night there was white smoke from government and a deal seemed to have been reached that kept the airline flying, at least for now.
Business and tourism leaders will breathe a sigh of relief at that.
They should also reflect at the same time on how important the security of owning our own airline often proves to be.
Without Aurigny, the island would be at the mercy of market forces in an increasingly volatile and uncertain industry.
Aurigny gives the island a measure of control, albeit at a heavy price.
Over the last few days, as Flybe has wobbled, it has often seemed a price worth paying.