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‘Open skies’ in Guernsey ‘could cut costs of inter-island travel’

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IMPLEMENTING a Jersey-style ‘open skies’ policy – which allows airlines to operate routes without needing a licence – in Guernsey could bring down the cost of inter-island travel, a transport and tourism expert has said.

Andy Jehan

Andy Jehan, chairman of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Transport and Tourism Committee, said that if Guernsey were to replace its current route licensing structure with an open-skies policy it could provide Islanders in Jersey with more choice and better value for money.

His comments come after Guernsey’s Economic Development president Charles Parkinson announced plans for a ‘quasi-open skies policy’ to open up the island’s air routes to all operators, apart from those to ‘lifeline’ destinations, namely Gatwick and Alderney.

Deputy Parkinson says that by opening up the island’s air industry airlines could be encouraged to set up routes to more destinations. Mr Jehan agrees and said the move could also lead to air fares being cut.

‘If you look at how Waves [a new Guernsey-based airline which began flying to Jersey earlier this year] has been set up and how a seaplane service is being looked at, I think there is demand and I think that Jersey’s industries would welcome more competition,’ he said. ‘Initially, there would likely be an increase in frequency in the market but then it would find its own level and a few operators might leave after one or two seasons.

‘There would likely be improved customer service, improved frequency and reduced costs.’

However, Derek Coates, chairman of Blue Islands, has described moving to an open-skies policy as ‘perilous and destructive’.

‘If another significant carrier came on the Guernsey–Jersey route at peak times, where both Aurigny and ourselves used to lose unsustainable amounts of money, Blue Islands would no longer be obliged to maintain its flight frequency,’ he said.

‘It would therefore cut unprofitable flights at times when there is low demand, such as the middle of the day, thereby reducing Guernsey’s connectivity and frequency.’

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Mr Coates also said that the dangers of an open-skies policy had already been demonstrated by the recent establishment of Waves, which recently cancelled all services for three weeks to perform maintenance on its only aircraft.

‘Blue Islands has applied for a variation to its own licence to remove any minimum frequency or capacity requirements, in order that it can reduce its own flying to compensate for the lost revenue caused by Waves’ entry to the market,’ he said. ‘No alternative aircraft was sourced [by Waves] to cover the operation and passengers were left with the option of changing their plans, requesting a refund or travelling with an alternative operator.

‘While likely that Blue Islands are currently able to accommodate those passengers dropped by Waves, it is possible spare capacity would not be available if Blue Islands was operating a reduced schedule.’

He added that comparing Jersey’s air industry to Guernsey was fundamentally flawed, saying that Jersey had a larger population.

‘This relative difference is felt acutely when both markets are sub-scale. A straight comparison between these two markets is clearly not appropriate.

‘Even if one deems the open-skies policy in Jersey a success, there are no reasonable grounds on which to expect a similar policy in Guernsey would meet with the same success.’

Gary Burgess

By Gary Burgess
Reporter

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