Costs outweigh Aurigny’s advantages

I refer to the Opinion piece in last Tuesday’s Guernsey Press [Highlighting Aurigny’s advantages], claiming advantages to Guernsey of having a state-owned airline in the shape of Aurigny. However it seems to me that this piece is misleading in its slant.

First, the advantage of owning Aurigny is claimed to be a contrast with the suggested ‘fragility’ of Jersey’s far superior air connectivity, because of BA’s cancellation of 10,300 flights and the uncertainty of how this might impact on Jersey’s service. However, this ignores the fact that it is not BA as an airline which is causing such cancellations, but the UK airports, which have forced such cancellations on the airlines as they are unable to service all the flights which the airlines wish to operate because of insufficient ground staff (baggage handlers, etc). This problem therefore has nothing to do with the merits of having a BA or EasyJet service.

Second, the vast, vast costs of maintaining a state-owned airline to provide all desirable services are totally glossed over and virtually dismissed, on the basis of accepting soothing statements issued by Aurigny’s management that its finances are improving. But we, the Guernsey taxpayers, are not permitted to see the accounts of Aurigny which might support this. They have always been withheld on grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity’. We therefore have no way of judging whether there is any improvement or how real it may be, or whether these are just platitudes. All we do actually know is that over the last years the supposed advantage of owning this airline, with its absurdly diverse fleet, has continually cost the Guernsey state many, many millions of pounds from its losses and debt, with a succession of promises of improvement, routinely undelivered, and with more and more public money simply being written off and lost. There comes a point where the cost of a theoretical benefit turns it into a millstone in practice.

The fact is that if only Guernsey itself had a runway, as Jersey has, of sufficient length – ie, at least 1,700m – to accommodate the standard working aircraft of the major carriers when fully loaded, then Guernsey too could have the benefit of greater air connectivity and the cheaper air fares which such capacity and competition would bring. The airlines which fly from Jersey to Gatwick charge only about 50% of what Aurigny charges for flights from Guernsey to Gatwick.

The answer is obvious – lengthen Guernsey’s runway and stop the unrealistic protection of Aurigny.

HARVEY MARSHALL

St Saviour’s

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