Pro-extension campaigners are criticising a report finding few benefits to extending Guernsey’s runway, saying it only focuses on the negative economic impact and does not attempt to “identify considerable savings” elsewhere.
The Guernsey Aviation Action Group (GAAG) are hoping to see the island’s runway extended to at least 1,700m to allow larger aircraft operate from Guernsey, utilising aircraft used across Europe such as the Boeing 737.
It was revealed this week that specialist consultants, York Aviation, had concluded that any extension to the runway is likely to have a negative effect on Guernsey Ports’ profitability, worsen connectivity and frequency with key destinations, and see Aurigny lose tens of millions of pounds in revenue.
It also found that whilst lower fares could be realised, they are likely to only benefit locals and not tourists – and large numbers are not anticipated to shift from ferry to air services.
GAAG’s Chair, Barry Cash, told Express yesterday the reported impact on sea services “is purely an opinion and not based on any survey”.
He also criticised what he saw as attempts to protect the States-owned airline: “Guernsey’s air strategy is being dictated by the needs of an airline rather than the needs of the community as a whole”.
But he did note that Aurigny could still play a role with an extended runway since it has a monopoly on landing slots at Gatwick Airport and suggested these could be licenced to other airlines whilst continuing to operate other routes.
“They will also provide all other routes and the provision of Bailiwick air services between Guernsey- Alderney- Southampton- France and Jersey,” he added.
Pictured: Debate on Guernsey's runway has been brewing for several years.
“[York Aviation] assume that it will be only low-cost carriers would be interested who will demand a discounted service. As Aurigny ‘own’ the slots they are free to fill them however they decide, either by flying them themselves, or licensing another airline to provide the service to an agreed standard,” said Mr Cash.
“This agreement could include locating an aircraft in Guernsey or the early morning red eye fights.
“Such an arrangement would provide sufficient capacity on the Gatwick route and remove the need for Aurigny to run such a large fleet thereby considerably reducing their overheads. The airport will not lose any income as no discount will be required.
Mr Cash said if an international carrier was selected to fill the slots, passengers could travel worldwide without the need to connect within the UK.
“Is it ethically right that the less well-off members of the Guernsey community be restricted in their opportunity to travel by keeping fares unnecessarily high?”
2. Maybe they went slightly beyond their strict remit but I would much prefer that than consultants who don't really reach any firm conclusions. And they are amongst the leading experts in this area. Very useful report which should inform debate. Decision needed asap.— Peter John "Rufus" Roffey (@PeterRoffey5) December 9, 2022
Above: Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the STSB which acts as shareholder for Aurigny and Guernsey Ports, does not support extending Guernsey's runway.
Nico Bezuidenhout, Chief Executive of Aurigny, has consistently said that extending Guernsey’s runway would not necessarily result in the things GAAG hope to see happen.
He told Express in May that an extended runway “does not guarantee the entry of any carrier into the Guernsey market, nor does it automatically alter demand patterns for services to and from the island.
"That will be dictated by other fundamentals, such as the size of the market, the tourism value proposition, passengers' needs in terms of year-round connectivity and flight frequency, and alternative deployment options that airlines may have for available aircraft," he said.
"These factors all have an impact on the financial sustainability of air services and will influence whether other airlines wish to operate to and from Guernsey - rather than the runway length in isolation."
Aurigny told Express this week that its position on runway extension have not changed, and that the only decision taken on potentially replacing it's Embraer jet “is that it scheduled to fly all of next summer including offering our greatest ever series of direct European services”.
Economic Development President, Deputy Neil Inder said an updated cost-benefit analysis for extension from Frontier Economics, which previously concluded that economic benefits could be realised, was completed in the summer, and will be published alongside the policy letter next year.
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