Aurigny Plans Jet Operation to London Following Flybe Cuts

The UK Guernsey's States have voted to safeguard the Channel Island's airline link to London Gatwick in summer 2014 and given authority for Aurigny Air Services to expand its fleet to fill the void when Flybe ends its own operations between the UK capital and Guernsey at the end of the winter 2013/2014 schedule following the sale of its slots at Gatwick Airport to easyJet.

This month the route is served on an up to five times daily basis by Flybe and up to six times daily by Aurigny.  Together the two airlines provide almost 150 rotations per week offering over 11,000 seats.  Based on the airline’s August 2013 schedules, the loss of the Flybe operation would bring a shortfall of around 5,800 seats a week, or 830 a day and Aurigny is seeking to fill this void by expanding its own operation to meet the demand.  According to MIDT data an estimated 318,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew on the route in 2012 with Aurigny holding a 57.0 per cent share of this traffic.

In the past week, to increase capacity on the route from summer 2014, the Treasury and Resources Department asked the States Government for permission to guarantee a loan for the purchase of new planes.  This was passed on the condition the loan is agreed within a year and has permitted the purchase or lease of more than one aircraft, although a proposal for this to be exclusively used on the Guernsey – London Gatwick route was dismissed, meaning aircraft could be brought to serve other routes to free up capacity for the London connection.

Aurigny’s recently appointed chief executive officer, Mark Darby, an experienced regional airline executive, has stated publicly that it's most likely the carrier will acquire a jet and it is understood that Aurigny has actually held informal talks with Flybe to acquire one of its own Embraer E175s to operate the London route.  A final damp- or wet-lease agreement would remain subject to Aurigny securing additional slots at London Gatwick to up its own schedule and the Treasury and Resources Department is set to announce the plan within the next two weeks after over viewing Aurigny’s business case for growth.

"Aurigny is already the market leader on the Gatwick route, carrying just under 200,000 passengers last year.  However, whilst it does have some current spare capacity, there is no practical way for it to accommodate the 146,000 passengers carried by Flybe in 2012 without expanding its own services,” said Deputy Gavin St Pier, Minister for the Treasury and Resources Department.

"Both the Department and the airline recognise the strategic importance of the Gatwick route to the Island.  Given the importance of the service to so many sectors of our community and economy, it is essential that there is confidence a good service capable of meeting current demand will be maintained and that passengers can see we are absolutely committed to ensuring this is the case," he added.

According to data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), air passenger demand between Guernsey and London Gatwick has been stable during the past two decades with numbers showing limited movement between highs of 356,000 annual passengers and lows of 307,000.  Annual passengers slipped 3.3 per cent in 2012 to 344,782 after reaching the century high of 356,368 the previous year.

SCHEDULED AIR DEMAND BETWEEN GUERNSEY AND LONDON GATWICK (annual passengers; UK CAA)

Year

Total Passengers

% Change

2012

344,782

(-3.3) %

2011

356,368

6.1 %

2010

335,937

(-1.7) %

2009

341,656

0.9 %

2008

338,720

(-1.2) %

2007

342,826

(-2.8) %

2006

352,752

1.4 %

2005

347,934

4.3 %

2004

333,694

2.1 %

2003

326,893

4.1 %

2002

314,017

2.1 %

2001

307,659

-


The growth plans follows a ruling last month that proposals to rebrand Aurigny should be dismissed.  The Treasury and Resources Department said “it does not believe that renaming of Aurigny is a matter that should be pursued by the airline as a priority,” and instead the airline’s Board, management and staff should focus on the major strategic challenges and opportunities currently being embraced by the airline.

"We have a very committed, but small, team at Aurigny which is currently devoting its energy to planning a major expansion of its services on the Gatwick route and the acquisition of an additional aircraft to support that operation. It is also planning for the replacement of the ageing Trislander fleet,” said Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher, Deputy Minister for the Treasury and Resources Department

These are strategically important issues for both the airline and the Bailiwick.  They also provide opportunities to transform Aurigny and it is important that the airline remains focused on these in the immediate future," he added.

The Department has confirmed that any decision to change the name or branding of the airline is one that would rest with the company itself but did not rule out perhaps using the airline’s fleet of aircraft to help promote the home market by painting them as logojets or ‘flying billboards’.  The Department said that whilst ultimately this would remain “a matter for the airline,” it was something it would “consider… with Aurigny to promote the Island,” but again, only after it has finalised its plans for the major strategic issues that lie ahead.

"Given the wider implications, it is important that any such changes are carried out in a considered manner, after proper research and with the benefit of some market testing.  It is not something that should be done in haste,” added Kuttelwascher.

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