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Friday 10 July 2020

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A transport and logistics specialist in Jersey is calling for true co-operation between the Channel Islands over air links in the wake of the Government of Jersey's decision to hand Blue Islands a £10m loan.

In a column for Express, Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Logistics and Transport Andy Jehan explains why he thinks closer working between the Channel Islands would mean both a better service for tourists and those hopping off the rock...

“I welcome the news confirming that the Government of Jersey has agreed to lend up to £10m to Blue Islands.

It comes almost exactly a year after I spoke about the island not investing in a freight vessel and used Guernsey’s investment in Aurigny as an example of how not to do it

Well, how times change.

The support offered to Blue Islands during covid-19 is essential if we are to ensure good connectivity to UK regional airports now that Flybe has collapsed, and leaves open the potential for European routes.

The airline industry in the island is facing an almost a perfect storm - a combination of the demise of Flybe, covid-19, and, added to that, the reductions in operating fleets with the two major providers. 

Flybe 850x500

Pictured: The loss of Flybe was a major blow to connectivity.

Providing there is sufficient governance (we must have learnt from the Jersey Innovation Fund), I think the Government have done the right thing at this time in helping to secure Blue Islands’ future and supporting our island’s vital air links. 

Now, more than ever before, there is a need for the Channel Islands’ governments to work more closely together when it comes to air links. Hopefully, we will see a return of easyJet into some of the major UK airports, including their popular Liverpool route. A frequent, reliable, low-cost inter-island service could help re-establish these routes sooner rather than later (covid travel restrictions permitting).  

I have written in the past about the need for sustainable routes - routes that are both efficient in terms of occupancy, as well as doing the least amount of damage environmentally on a per passenger basis. All too often routes into both islands fly at less than half capacity when a co-load may be more efficient.  

If done well, there is an opportunity for islanders to use the sister Island as a hub. Of course, it adds a bit of time and a little inconvenience, but, given the choice of a short hop from one island to another against a train or car journey to London, the former is surely preferable. 

Guernsey airport_luggage.jpg

Pictured: "There is an opportunity for islanders to use the sister island as a hub."

Safe and efficient airside transfers can and should be facilitated. We share the same Director of Civil Aviation, so with genuine cooperation it could be achieved.

Passengers should be able to arrive in one island and move straight to the departure gate for their next flight, rather than going through the arrival process and then re-entering security as is the case now. This would cut down the time needed in the second airport and, with cooperation over flight schedules, could ensure that both airlines receiving CI Government support could flourish whilst giving islanders and visitors greater choice. 

I hope that the agreement that has been reached ensures that the focus is on supporting other carriers flying from major airports rather than trying to compete with all the associated costs on routes such as Gatwick and Heathrow. 

As islanders who now have a vested interest in Blue Islands, we must all hope that they are successful in bringing visitors to the island as well as enabling islanders to get to the UK and further afield.

Let’s hope for a real commitment from Government for close working with Guernsey to ensure both islands do everything they can to maximise their assets.”

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