Cheaper Flights to/from Guernsey, Channel Islands
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I believe it is time to make our thoughts clear to the States of Guernsey about the extortionate prices we are forced to pay in order to leave the island by air.
I have lived in Guernsey all of my life, and I am currently a university student. Therefore, I regularly travel to the UK via a flight to London Gatwick with Aurigny, as like many others, I consider Condor Ferries to be too unreliable, especially in winter. I also tend not to use Blue Islands due to their UK destinations being limited to only Southampton and Jersey. Their prices are expensive, although tend to be moderately less so than Aurigny. For families and other individuals that want to travel further abroad, the extra cost of having to travel to the UK beforehand for a connecting flight is a significant setback. I do not believe such high costs to be fair when residents of Jersey do not experience this in the same way, with their much cheaper airfares and wider choice of destinations.
Aurigny Air Services, which is owned by the States of Guernsey, makes a loss every year and is expected to make a loss of £3.9m in 2018. This will be a similar outcome to 2017, with ‘a decrease in passenger revenues cited as one of the reasons’ for the loss, according to an article published by the Guernsey Press on 18.05.17. Recently I have struggled to find one-way tickets from Guernsey to London Gatwick for less than £79.99, with most escalating to much higher prices. It seems to be a rarity to find one-way tickets for under £99.99, with prices tending to be around £129.99 and often as high as £199.99. If Aurigny needs to charge customers that much yet is still in deficit every year then I believe their business model is flawed and requires reconsideration.
Jersey Airport currently has three main airlines with regular routes; EasyJet, British Airways and Flybe. British Airways is currently (correct 12.02.18) advertising flights from Jersey to London Gatwick for £35.00 each way, and its competitors are very similar in price - this is less than half the price we must pay to fly with Aurigny to get to the same destination. By having such large, well-known airlines with regular routes to the island, Jersey also benefits from advertising on their websites. Not only this, but you are able to book hotels and view tourist information. Guernsey does not have this, giving Jersey’s tourist industry a large head-start. Being so close and such a similar market, Jersey is our closest competitor for tourism. Jersey has a significantly higher amount of tourist information available to the public, is better advertised and has more tourist attractions. Furthermore, it is accessible from more destinations and people can choose between more than one airline. This has proven to be worthwhile due to Jersey attracting 718,000 visitors in 2017, around 8 times more than visited Guernsey which was approximately 87,800.
It is because of these points that I see no real reason why someone who has never been to the Channel Islands would choose to spend at least double, often triple, the price to fly to Guernsey over Jersey. If Guernsey was more cheaply and easily accessible, its tourist industry would highly likely improve. This would, in turn, give more reason for investors to create tourist attractions. Jersey’s higher visitor numbers are visibly benefiting the island with the amount and quality of hotels, tourist information and attractions. I believe that the extortionate cost of getting to Guernsey by air (the quickest and most reliable form of transportation to the island) is proving detrimental to the tourist industry and I believe the way forward for our tourist and hotel industries is less expensive travel.
In an article published by the Guernsey Press on 08.03.17, it is said that the majority of the island’s businesses are calling for a runway extension. This would allow the island to be more flexible, and, as said in the article, ‘it would say that Guernsey is open for business’. I agree with this statement, as more airlines would be capable of reaching the island, and larger (although not excessive) aircraft would be able to land in Guernsey. A particular example is British Airways, whose smallest planes are still too large for Guernsey’s 1463m runway, but are capable of landing on Jersey’s 1706m runway.
Frustratingly, EasyJet had shown interest in flying to Guernsey in 2013, but they withdrew their application for the route due to the States giving Aurigny so much control over routes that it became uneconomical for EasyJet. Competition drives down prices and prevents a single company having a monopoly, and Guernsey is a prime example of this problem as it is obviously not currently benefiting from this.
A partnership between EasyJet and Aurigny is being established, according to recent information. This is a good first step towards solving some issues, such as guaranteed connecting flights and extending the island’s marketing reach as it will become a destination on the EasyJet website. That said, it still does not solve the issue of extortionately high Aurigny ticket prices nor the significant cost incurred by having to book two flights rather than one because a connecting flight is required.
To conclude, what I am appealing for is a public response from the States of Guernsey giving us answers. I believe we deserve reasons as to why airfares are so high, why we are not welcoming competition from other airlines and why the runway has not been extended. We deserve clear information on the strategy that will be implemented to ensure reasonably priced travel to and from the island for both residents and visitors.
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