Competition watchdog drops Flybe franchise investigation
AN investigation by the competition watchdog into the franchising agreement between Flybe and Blue Islands has closed.
The Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities said it had taken the decision following the launch of Waves, another operator, on the inter-island route and added that closing the investigation would allow it to focus on other matters that ‘have a higher priority at the present time’.
Under the franchise agreement, which was announced in March 2016, Blue Islands remains locally owned but planes are branded in Flybe colours and bookings are made through the Flybe website.
In September 2016 CICRA wrote an open letter to the heads of each company questioning the benefits of the agreement and challenging them to prove their commitment to the Channel Islands.
A formal investigation was then launched to look into whether the franchise restricted competition between Flybe and Blue Islands, either in terms of ticket prices or the routes on which Blue Islands was permitted to fly.
The investigation came as a number of passengers criticised the service provided after there were a number of delays and cancellations, particularly on the Jersey to Guernsey route.
Announcing the decision to close the investigation, Michael Byrne, chief executive of CICRA, said: ‘CICRA has to prioritise projects that appear likely to have the greatest impact on consumer welfare.
‘We have decided that, with a new operator now offering flights on the inter-island route, we should step back from this review for the time being and monitor the impact of this increased competition.
‘This will also allow us to focus our resources on other matters that have a higher priority at the present time.
‘This decision does not amount to a statement as to whether any party to the franchise arrangements infringed competition law and no inference to that effect should be made.’