Airline paid £203,000 to maintain ’lifeline’ flights

ALMOST £203,000 was paid to Blue Islands by the government last year to ensure that ‘lifeline’ flights between the UK and Jersey continued.

A Blue Islands aircraft at Jersey Airport. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30016539)
A Blue Islands aircraft at Jersey Airport. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30016539)

The money was spent following the signing of a contract – that has an annual budget of £330,000 – with the airline to ensure that Islanders could continue to travel to Southampton for crucial medical appointments and other vital purposes.

The contract followed the closure of the Island’s borders to non-essential passengers from 30 March until 31 July, when £135,674 was spent, and again during the festive period from 30 November until 24 December, when £67,217 was spent.

Essential flights were also operated to other airports, including Gatwick and Birmingham.

Now, amid a UK lockdown, the number of daily scheduled flights arriving in the Island has slumped to just one during the working week, with its operator, Blue Islands, saying the service has become ‘commercially unviable’.

The airline says it continues to fly to Southampton without a States subsidy but is now ‘working closely’ with the government to ensure that Jersey’s link with the city is maintained.

EasyJet has temporarily pulled out of the Island and British Airways is operating only a single Heathrow flight on Fridays and Sundays.

A spokesman for Blue Islands, which last year secured a £10 million government loan after agreeing to move its base to the Island, said: ‘The latest UK government restrictions have resulted in Blue Islands being the only remaining operator to maintain Jersey’s essential connectivity through the week with our Southampton services, enabling uninterrupted travel for essential medical, compassionate and repatriation purposes.

‘While demand for travel to and from Jersey is currently too low to allow for a commercially viable operation, we do continue to operate our services on a commercial basis at present.’

He added: ‘We are committed to the provision of lifeline services and are working closely with the Government of Jersey to ensure an appropriate level of essential connectivity can be maintained.’

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