Heathrow subsidy gamble fails

IT HAS always been hard to see the logic of the Heathrow subsidy. Now that its predictably short lifespan is coming to an end it is harder still.

Who has benefited from spending more than a million pounds on the service? Flybe, of course, much good that it has done them.

And over the course of 2019, more than 11,000 passengers have seen a substantial part of their ticket price paid by the States of Guernsey.

It is difficult to be sure but perhaps some finance houses have benefited from enticing international clients across to the island with the promise of an easy Heathrow connection.

The biggest loser is easier to identify. The taxpayer lost not only by spending heavily to entice Flybe to open the route but by increasing Aurigny’s already unacceptable losses.

And to what end? Economic Development might see the route as ‘well-established’ but the slots will now go to a higher bidder and the route will disappear.

Unless another airline has a spare slot or two opening up in the next few months it is clear that the ambition to establish Heathrow as a long-term alternative to Gatwick has failed and Economic Development’s gamble has been lost.

Passengers who were hoping to fly to Heathrow will now have to change their plans. The island’s already shaky reputation for reliable air travel will take another hit.

Coupled with the open-today-gone-tomorrow lottery of the quasi open skies policy, with its trumpet fanfare of new routes all too quickly followed by their closure, there is little assurance for passengers about which routes, which times and which airline to rely on when planning months in advance.

The closure of the Heathrow route, coupled with London Southend and Liverpool, will quickly undercut the much-vaunted 6% annual gains in passenger numbers and shows that, even for fans of open skies, it is not a panacea.

The problems with air travel remain as deep-seated and frustrating as they were at the end of the last Assembly’s term of office.

A more professional approach is required with industry experts to the fore in place of politicians who have had their chance and little to show for it.

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