No island too small

Located in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy, The Channel Islands are an archipelago steeped in history, famously passed to the English Crown upon the coronation of William the Conqueror as King of England in 1066, before being divided into two bailiwicks, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, in the late 13th century. The latter consists of a group of vibrant, picturesque islands, and is home to a modern community and a fastpaced economy.

The northernmost of the inhabited Bailiwick islands, and indeed The Channel Islands as a whole, is Alderney. Three miles long and 1.5 miles wide, the island is the closest to both France and the United Kingdom, and is home to a population of just over 1900, as per figures collected in 2013. Alderney’s Norman name is ‘Aurigny’ and this is also the moniker adopted by the flag carrier airline of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Aurigny.

“The business was founded by Sir Derrick Bailey in 1968, essentially to provide regular, scheduled air services to and from the island of Alderney, which we remain the only carrier currently doing so 50 years later,” explains Aurigny’s Commercial Director, Malcolm Coupar. In its first year of operations the airline carried approximately 45,000 passengers between Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney, but by the end of 2017, from its present-day base in Guernsey, it had surpassed 15.5m passengers.

The airline’s network of scheduled services not only fly inter-island between Guernsey and Alderney, but also to key destinations in the UK and Continental Europe, providing a lifeline for the island’s local communities, and their respective business and tourism sectors. “For 2018, our services from Guernsey will reach out to London Gatwick, Manchester, East Midlands, Bristol, and Leeds Bradford and Norwich, which we added in 2016. Meanwhile, from Alderney we fly to Southampton,” Malcolm continues. “Internationally we have a year-round service between Guernsey and Dinard in Northern France and seasonal services to Grenoble.”

What started as a small fleet of eight and nine seater Britten Norman twin propeller aircraft has understandably grown in line with the number of passengers and routes serviced by the airline. Today, the flagship of its fleet is arguably its 122 seat Embraer E195 jet, introduced in July 2014 to service Gatwick. Joining this are two ATR 72-500 and one ATR 42-500 aircraft, and a fleet of Dornier aircraft.

Together the above-mentioned aircraft combine to serve the three main sectors that provide the life blood of The Channel Islands; the finance industry, the local community and tourism. “The finance industry is hugely important to Guernsey and is very dependent upon good, regular transport connections to the world,” Malcolm says. “What we do is provide that crucial link into London, via Gatwick, where passengers can then connect with the rest of the globe. By providing six flights a day in each direction, we provide our business passengers with a high degree of flexibility for when their own schedules change. At the same time, our services are not only offering the islands’ inhabitants the ability to migrate to and from the mainland, but also play a vital part in stimulating the tourism sector. It is only when all of these areas of the travel market come together that we truly thrive collectively.”

With competing services coming in the form of not only rival airlines, Flybe for example operates to Guernsey from Southampton, Exeter, Birmingham and Cardiff, but also local ferry services to the south coast, the need for Aurigny to maintain the highest of customer service standards remains no less fundamental to its operations than any other aviation company.

“The standard of service that we offer our customers is second-to-none, which is something that we are hugely proud of,” Malcolm enthuses. “We believe it is how we treat our customers at all times throughout their interaction with us that has seen the company come to be recognised by various industry bodies and observers. This culminated in Aurigny coming third in the Telegraph Travel Awards for ‘The Best Short-Haul Airlines’ in December 2017, an achievement we then followed up just two weeks later by topping the Which? ‘Short Haul Airline Survey for 2017’.”

As it enters its 50th year in existence, the company’s focus, first and foremost, is on consolidation and this means ensuring that the level of service it provides its passengers continues to improve. “One of the things we have recently put in play is the hiring of our own staff at Gatwick,” Malcolm states. “This is far and away our biggest route, making up around half of our total revenues, and to improve the passenger experience we have decided to end our reliance on third party businesses to provide our passenger handling services. In their place, we have employed our own people, using our own systems and this is an investment that we believe will make a very positive difference going forward.

“This initiative represents an example of how we are constantly focused on sharpening up the customer experience from start to finish, from reservations through to arrival, developing existing and new technology in order to improve communications and provide up-to-the-minute information to our passengers. We have already taken great strides in perfecting the customer experience over the last five decades, but it is exciting for us that there remains huge scope to improve things further still in the future.”

Another highlight over the coming months will be the arrival of a second Dornier 228NG, providing a further upgrade to Aurigny’s Alderney service, while early plans are also being laid out for a fleet replacement programme for its ATR fleet. This programme, which it is hoped will be realised over the next two years, would see the adoption of new ATR’s which include improved poor weather landing capability in the form of the Enhanced Vision System.

For an airline business for any size, reaching its 50th birthday is an incredible achievement. As Aurigny embarks on a year of celebration it can take great pride in the fact that, in an area where many others have tried and failed, it has displayed the traits needed to achieve continued success and progress.

Flag carrier airline for the Bailiwick of Guernsey
Carried nine millionth passenger in 2017
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018