With Guernsey’s air links looking increasingly fragile, the executive board have written to all deputies urging them to take action and instigate an independent review into the Bailiwick’s air links.

Dear Deputies,

As travel connectivity is so vital to our economy and way of life, we sincerely hope you are all giving the future of our islands air links serious consideration. The reputational damage caused by long delays, cancellations, and exorbitant fares, cannot be underestimated.

Industry sources suggest that wet leasing planes (inc. crew) is very expensive, and at times not always possible. And also how these wet leases (four different planes in recent months) are affecting the airlines aim to break-even?

It is also noted that recently there has been A320’s used to assist with trying to alleviate disruption on schedules. It appears that this aircraft type is being used to try and solve the airlines problems when it suits them, but not recommended for the future as that would necessitate a longer runway.

For many the impending sale of the Embraer 195 is disappointing. It means a drop in capacity on the number one route. Flying in an ATR is a noisy and less comfortable experience compared to the Embraer. It seems we are going backwards not forwards with our air links.

In recent months many people were questioning the direction the Aurigny leadership were taking the airline in. With less planes and less passenger capacity, that model pointed towards problems around reliability and resilience. And this is before more routes such as London City, Stansted, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin, and a plethora of European destinations are added to the airlines schedule.

We have to ask why are Aurigny flying off to places like Ibiza, Malaga, Valencia, Porto, etc, when it’s possible (with the fleet resilience undoubtably under question) one plane going tech will cause untold disruption and travel chaos?

We were all told that the transition to an all ATR fleet would be seamless. Early indications say otherwise. It might not come as a surprise, but with the summer season fast approaching we have real concerns about the reliability and resilience of our air links. Can P&R, STSB, and CfED reassure our members that we will not have a repeat of recent events of delays, cancellations, and severely reputational damaging disruption?

Within the air policy framework document (Sep 2021) it states the following;

4.3: The Framework identifies the strategic role of Aurigny as follows:

Aurigny is to maintain reliable air transportation services’’………..And that ‘’Aurigny will forsake a profit motive beyond that needed to be financially self-sufficient in favour of affordable air travel’’.

Core strategic objectives: Increase visitor numbers back to 2015 levels.

SoG oversight: The Policy & Resources Committee, the Committee for Economic Development and the States’ Trading Supervisory Board have agreed the air policy framework. They will work to support it, along with Aurigny and Guernsey Airport, through twice-yearly monitoring meetings.

Can the three committees tasked with reviewing the policy tell us who is actually doing this job and therefore possibly accountable, or is this policy document meaningless?

Update from today’s debate: Deputy Inder admitted that these meetings haven’t taken place since the air policy framework was agreed in 2021. This is dereliction of duty. How can we have faith in the operation of the State airline when it seems our leaders cannot even take the time to sit down together in a room and agree vital oversight matters on our air links?

Last year Deputy Inder and three other members of CfED chose to hand the future of any decision on the airport’s runway to STSB, who’s President has publicly stated he does not believe a longer runway would improve our air links.

At this critical juncture, perhaps it is now time for P&R to take control of States oversight of our air links.

We are requesting an independent review into the Bailiwicks air links, including inter-island travel connectivity. It would need to be a truly independent and transparent review, with the experts left to do their work and publish their findings without political or civil service interference.

The States own the airport and Aurigny, and therefore have a major role to play in how this situation plays out. We urge you not to let the next fifteen months drift by, but to take the necessary action to find a pathway to a stronger and more resilient model for our air links.

As an association that represents 90% of the hotel/accommodation sector we would really appreciate hearing your views on this matter.

Guernsey Hospitality Executive Board.