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Dismay over Dornier reductions

Dismay over Dornier reductions

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Dismay over Dornier reductions

The drop to two working Dorniers serving the Alderney routes, with only one aircraft and one crew operating on any given day, has been greeted with deep dismay by residents and regular visitors.

The fleet, which serves the Alderney to Southampton and Alderney to Guernsey routes, originally consisted of two New Generation Dorniers and two 'classic' models.

One of the classic models, G-SAYE, is now being cannibalised for parts and Aurigny has now announced that the other older Dornier, G-Longis, will need a replacement wing within two to three months.

That will leave only G-ETAC and G-OAUR, in the fleet, one being used as an 'active' aircraft and another as a spare for when the other is in maintenance or being repaired.

The States-owned airline has announced that it will not make a spending decision on the work – which will cost around £500,000 – until after a decision is made on which operator the public service contract will serve the Alderney routes.

Mark Darby aurigny

Pictured: Mark Darby is Aurigny's CEO. 

With delay after delay hitting the PSO process – a decision was originally expected last February – it is uncertain exactly when that will be. Aurigny fears the PSO service may not be operational until next autumn.

The detrimental impact of a reduced number of aircraft in operation has caused significant concern among islanders – not least because of recent experience with a smaller fleet.

In September when Aurigny was down to one operational plane and bad weather struck, visitors and residents were stranded at Southampton Airport for up to five days as the airline lacked the capacity to clear the backlog.

The Chief Executive of the States of Alderney, Andrew Muter, said the new situation was entirely forseeable and could have been avoided.

"The States of Alderney is very concerned about this situation which poses a significant threat in terms of the capacity available, particularly to enable the visitor economy to function," he said. "We are also concerned about the resilience of the service and the ability of Aurigny to recover from weather or technical delays with only two Dorniers in operation. This situation has been entirely foreseeable and avoidable."

The schedule for next Spring's flights has not yet been released and there are fears that an even more restrictive timetable will threaten events.

The winter schedule has already seen outgoing and return flights to Southampton squeezed closer together and no planes returning from Guernsey after 12:30 at weekends.

Alderney Airport

Pictured: Alderney Airport. 

Caroline Kay-Mouat, founder of Alderney Performing Arts Festival, is working hard to prepare the eighth such event, due to be held from 22-25 May.

"In order to prepare for and forward book performers for each year’s Festival we have to know approximately half a year in advance the Aurigny flight timetable and availability of flights. As we prepare for next year’s event we are once again acutely aware that the Aurigny timetable for flights to Alderney for next year is not available which is already complicating our applications for funding from across the Bailiwick, the Channel Islands and the UK as we have to guess what the costs of travel might be and guess the timings to bring over the top performers who have very busy schedules.

"The uncertainty caused by the delays in the PSO process resolving the other issues surrounding the air links to Alderney are making the continuance of the Festival in its present shape problematic. We are hopeful that the issues besetting the airline and the PSO process will be resolved soon and thereby enable all visitors and islanders alike to enjoy freedom to travel between the Islands, France and the UK.

"Nonetheless, this long dragged out process is exacerbating what is in even normal times a challenging situation."

John Cadoret, who campaigned vigorously against the purchase of Dorniers and in favour of retaining Trislanders, pointed out that in June 2014 Policy and Resources President Gavin St Pier had pledged that the fleet would consist of four Dorniers.

"The transition to a Dornier operation has been an unmitigated disaster," he commented.

The Chamber of Commerce meanwhile appears to be losing faith in the value of the PSO tendering process.

"The uncertainty lingering over Alderney's connectivity is damaging every aspect of daily life," he said. "I actually have some sympathy with Aurigny – why would they want to spend money when they do not know what the outcome of the PSO will be.

"I am coming to believe that it would be worth trying to sort things out with Aurigny and doing away with the PSO process completely."

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