There’s been more bad news for beleaguered Ronaldsway Airport with the announcement from Flybe that they would no longer require a physical base in the Isle of Man.

The airline, which was acquired by a consortium formed in December last year and made up of Cyrus Capital partners, Virgin and Stobart, is also going ahead with the planned withdrawal of its daily Isle of Man/Heathrow service on October 26th.

Routes to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester will continue, but will be operated by Stobart Air under a new commercial arrangement. The move will see the withdrawal of Flybe’s two De Havilland Q400 aircraft and their replacement with the slightly smaller ATR 72-600s.

The company claims the aircraft are better suited to the shorter routes and operate more economically.

The first ATR will enter service on the 5th of January and the second on 29th of March.

According to the company the new arrangements mean it no longer requires a physical base in the Isle of Man. The bad news was passed on personally to local staff, senior airport officials and politicians by Connect Airways CEO, Mark Anderson, during a recent visit to the Island.

The existing contract with the Department of Health and Social Care will continue. 

News of the Flybe move, whilst probably not totally unexpected, will certainly add to the airport’s woes. Recent estimates suggest it is losing around £3.7 million a year. 

A report into the airport’s operation by independent consultants has suggested an arms length state-owned company, with appropriate government control and scrutiny, would not eliminate losses but would provide greater commercial incentives, likely to minimise the need for subsidies in the future. The idea was supported by Tynwald in July and a plan is expected to be put before the Manx Parliament in the Spring of next year.

What is certain is that there’s no magic bullet that can turn the airport’s fortunes around. It is hoped however, that a root and branch overhaul of the entire operation might at least improve efficiency, reduce losses and boost staff morale. Sadly though, achieving the latter rarely sits comfortably with cost-cutting initiatives. 

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