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"Aurigny need more Dorniers"

Friday 11 October 2019

"Aurigny need more Dorniers"

Alderney residents vented their frustrations over air links this week, with one couple saying they considered selling up and moving after being stranded in Southampton for six days.

Around 100 people went to this week's People's Meeting at the Island Hall in response to a plea by Barbara Benfield, the resident leading the charge for action over Alderney's air links, to "make some noise" over transport links.

The rally came after weeks of travel misery where only two, or sometimes just one, Dornier has been in operation.

A planeful of visitors and residents were stranded in Southampton for up to six days, while  delegates to island meetings faced 25-hour delays. Hotels have reported cancelled bookings and several patients on trips to medical trips in Guernsey and Southampton reported having biopsies and biopsy results delayed. 

Last month, Mrs Benfield was in Guernsey handing a petition for better air links to every deputy at the States of Guernsey. 

"Unfortunately things have not changed. There has been no improvement – in fact I would go as far as to say that it's got worse. We've had flight cancellations, not only from weather, but from lack of planes to meet the demand. Most of the time we've been down to one Dornier. We've had flight cancellations and people delayed for five, six and seven nights, at their own expense.


Pictured: Business owners said that the lack of reliable air links was making it difficult to attract people to the island. 

"In recent days we've had people flown to Guernsey and been told we can't get you home today, you'll have to go home tomorrow and some people the following day.

"We can't fix this if the States of Guernsey don't help us. We are not whinging. We are just putting the facts out there in the hope that somebody will listen to what we're saying. We have people investing in the island and the potential for much more investment in the island, who may decide to invest elsewhere if this situation continues.

"If this situation is left to limp on as it is we will need more than Guernsey can provide to get this island back on its feet. I'm not scaremongering or whinging. This is really happening here and now and we need it sorted."

Holiday home owners Andrew and Sheila Stephenson, both from Lincoln, recently considered selling their second home on Alderney and buying on the south coast of England instead after six days stuck in Southampton without a flight.

"We've been coming here for 15 years and we accept that delays due bad weather are part of island life and we always leave space either side of the trip for that," said Mrs Stephenson, a retired primary school teacher.

"But we couldn't believe we would have to wait nearly a week. It would have taken two days to get back to Lincoln so we decided to rent an apartment, hoping they would get us on an earlier flight. It must have cost around £600 all told. This is by far the worst experience that we've had while coming to Alderney. We felt so angry and frustrated that last week were were all for selling up in Alderney and buying something on the south coast instead. But once we get here we love it, so we decided to stick with it for now."

Tracey Farquhar-Beck, General Manager of newly-established hotel The Blonde Hedgehog, said long delays and cancellations had already prevented guests from coming and could cripple new businesses trying to set up on Alderney.

"We've only been open for three to four weeks and we've already had one weekend where people wanting to come over from the UK to stay with us and there have been no flights to get them over," she said. "We had some clients from the UK coming to scope the place out before booking a whole weekend in November and their plane went tech and they were diverted to Guernsey.

Alderney Airport runway wikipedia

Pictured: The size of Alderney's runway, coupled with high crosswinds, can lead to flight disruption as the conditions are not always good enough for the Dorniers to land in. 

"Going forward as a new business it's rather scary. If you can't get here people to try out Alderney for the first time are not going to come back however lovely the island is. Nearly everyone on the island benefits from tourism so it's vital that we have reliable air links.'

Alderney resident Graham Green said flights to see his grandchildren in the UK were continually disrupted.

"My wife and I have probably been away 20 times in the last two years," he said. "The situation is such we've reached a position where around 40 per cent of journeys interrupted on one leg or another. It's not a problem with the staff – the Aurigny staff are nothing but helpful. There's not enough aircraft, that's the truth of it and I don't think there's the will from Guernsey to do more."

Former Aurigny pilot Ray Bowyer said it was agreed when the decision to transition to Dorniers was made that there would be at least four of the aircraft available

Steve Roberts concurred that the number of available aircraft was the main cause of their transport issues. 

“We all know what the problems are. We have four fewer Dorniers than we should have, which is five. We had seven Trislanders. We need to find solutions and take them to Guernsey."

Pictured top: A Dornier, with, inset, the people's meeting. 

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