UK low-fare regional carrier, Flybe has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Channel Island-based Blue Islands for it to become its third franchise partner and to operate flights under its brand to and from Jersey and Guernsey airports with effect from spring 2016.
As with Flybe’s existing franchisees, Loganair and Stobart Air, once the agreement has been finalised, Blue Islands’ flights will be branded and marketed as Flybe and sold via Flybe’s own distribution channels.
Having previously traded under the Le Cocq’s Airlink (having been first established by Le Cocq's Stores in Alderney) and Rockhopper brands, Blue Islands was established in February 2006 already with a seven year operational pedigree.
As it approaches its tenth anniversary, this agreement with enable it to leverage upon the Flybe brand while retaining independent ownership.
“By becoming a franchise partner of Flybe, we will really be able to put Guernsey and Jersey firmly on the radar of potential new visitors and will all benefit from Flybe’s significant marketing bandwidth capabilities,” said Rob Veron, Managing Director, Blue Islands.
Whilst its aircraft may be repainted in Flybe livery, it will still remain an independent locally Channel Islands-owned air operator continuing to fly all its own aircraft under the Blue Islands AOC (Air Operator’s Certificate).
“We will continue to employ all our own crew, undertake all our own maintenance and control our own handling arrangements, and set our own prices,” added Veron.
The airline currently offers flights between Jersey and Guernsey; from Jersey to Bristol, Geneva (winter only) and London City; and from Guernsey to Southampton using a mixed fleet of ATR 42 and ATR 72 turboprops, according to schedules provider, OAG.
Flybe said the arrangement “reflects the long-standing relationship Flybe has with the Channel Islands which can only be deepened by this proposed new partnership”. The airline has its heritage in the Channel Islands having been formally known as Jersey European Airways, which was established following the merger of Intra Airways and Express Air Services in the late 1970s.
It already operates flights linking Guernsey and Jersey and between Guernsey and Birmingham, Exeter and Southampton and between Jersey and Aberdeen (summer seasonal), Birmingham, Cardiff, Doncaster Sheffield, Durham Tees Valley (summer seasonal), Edinburgh (summer seasonal), East Midlands, Exeter, Glasgow (summer seasonal), Geneva (winter seasonal), Humberside (summer seasonal), Inverness (summer seasonal), Manchester, Norwich (summer seasonal) and Southampton.
Despite the “long-standing relationship” with the Channel Islands, data from OAG shows that the carrier has significantly reduced its presence at both Guernsey and Jersey over the past ten years with average annual capacity declines of 7.7 and 2.2 per cent between 2006 and 2015. It remains the largest operator by capacity from Jersey (33.0 capacity share in 2016), but is the second largest operator from Guernsey after local carrier Aurigny , but just ahead of Blue Islands with a 22.0 per cent capacity share.