We make no apologies for making the future of air services the subject of our Comment piece for the third month in succession, in this month’s issue. There was some good news in March after confirmation that the deal to sell Flybe to the Connect Airways consortium is moving forward after receiving shareholder approval. Connect is a joint venture involving Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and Cyrus Capital.

It means that – for the time being at least – normal services will continue in respect of flights to and from the Isle of Man. It’s reported that at some stage in the future the aircraft will be re-painted in the Virgin Atlantic livery.

Flybe hasn’t been the only airline to fall foul of the perfect storm that has hit the airline industry. There have been several other high profile European failures – the most recent the demise of Flybmi.

The Isle of Man’s vulnerability in terms of air services is in stark contrast to Guernsey. The Channel Island took the decision in 2003 to nationalise the Aurigny Airline, which operates passenger and freight services between the Island and the UK. It’s not been without its problems – in fact the airline has been loss-making for several years. In 2015 the States of Guernsey recapitalised the airline’s holding company by paying off around £25 million of existing and predicted debt. But it has at least provided a degree of certainty that strategically important routes could remain open – albeit at a cost.

Meanwhile, even before the paint was dry on the rescue plan with Connect Airways, Flybe announced it was to operate the first direct service between Guernsey and Heathrow for over twenty years. The daily afternoon flights were due to start on March 31st with fares starting from £20.77 one-way.

For Islands like the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands the security of air services is critical. Here in the Isle of Man we are entirely at the mercy of commercial operators who – can end or alter services at a whim. 

Let us hope that looking to the future Connect Airways, easyJet and British Airways continue to see the Isle of Man as a viable and profitable route. 

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