Opening Guernsey to the world
A milestone decision taken by Guernsey’s government in the summer of 2018 had an immediate effect on the activities at Guernsey Airport. The agreement of a new ‘open skies’ policy meant that airlines no longer needed an air transport licence to fly to and from the island, causing a potentially transformative change in what used to be a tightly regulated environment. Following the liberalising move, the airport is seeing a five per cent growth in passenger figures in 2019, which is nothing but good news for Guernsey’s flag carrier airline Aurigny Air.
“The new policy has allowed us to venture into new markets and introduce two new services that put us in a head-to-head competition against our main competitor Flybe,” begins Aurigny’s Commercial Director, Malcolm Coupar. “In May, we launched routes to Southampton and Jersey, which are the second and third busiest markets from Guernsey, just behind Gatwick Airport where we already have a heavy presence. More importantly, I am pleased to announce that the new services are showing significant growth and we are expecting overall passenger figures to increase by six-to-seven per cent by the end of 2019, compared to last year.”
What can be seen as an action with several positive outcomes, was the company’s decision to order three new ATR 72-600 aircraft for its fleet in December 2018. Starting from this month [October], it will have taken delivery of all three before the year is through, thus increasing its capacity and reducing its maintenance costs in the long-term.
“The main reason for the investment was the need to replace some of our ageing aircraft that have now been in operation for over ten years. When these planes reach such an age, it becomes more and more expensive to keep them in order,” Malcolm explains. “The aircraft we have ordered, feature an enhanced vision system to help the pilot in low visibility conditions, which will contribute significantly to the reliability of our service. Once we start flying these, there will be instances in which we will be able to land even when the visibility is poor, which is something our older aircraft are not capable of.”
Occupying an area of just 65 square kilometres, the island of Guernsey is a tight-knit community of which Aurigny is a proud representative. As such, the airline takes every opportunity to enhance its bond with the people of Guernsey and show its colours, and after the company’s latest initiative, the latter claim can be taken in the literal sense. Malcolm details: “Prior to the arrival of the new aircraft, we decided to refresh our livery, so we came up with three different designs and then created a poll for the local community to vote for the one they preferred. The selected design includes the Guernsey flag on the tail fin of the aircraft and we will have all three planes painted and delivered in the new livery.”
Together with the pending delivery of the ATR 72-600 machines, Aurigny has also invested in a second New Generation Dornier 228 aircraft, taking its Dornier fleet to a total of four planes. As Malcolm notes, however, one of the 228 Classic models is shortly being retired. He adds: “Renewing the fleet is an ongoing process for us. For example, it is not long before we start evaluating our possibilities to replace our Embraer 195, which was introduced in 2014 to service the Guernsey – Gatwick route and which is the largest aircraft in the fleet. Finding the best option for us will take some time as this size of aircraft has undergone some significant development in terms of technology in recent times, so we will look carefully at what is available and choose wisely.”
Historically, Aurigny has taken pride in the exceptional customer service it can deliver and this is a trait which Malcolm regards as one of the key differentiators for the airline. Over the last couple of years, the business has continued to drive improvements to its offering to make the customers’ engagement with it a lot easier. “We launched our new website at the beginning of last year to make ourselves more accessible and facilitate the buying experience for our passengers. We are also just about to take on our first in-house software engineer, whose role will be to further strengthen our digital connectivity with customers. One of the first projects he will be working on, is the development of an Aurigny mobile app,” Malcolm discloses.
“Another new service that is certainly being appreciated by the people living here, is the opportunity they now have to connect our Gatwick service with easyJet flights around Europe, as we began a partnership with easyJet through their innovative connections service ‘Worldwide by easyJet,” he goes on. “A very high proportion of the people that we carry to Gatwick are actually connecting to another destination, so we have made it possible for them to book a connecting flight to easyjet in one transaction.”
As we are entering the final quarter of 2019, Malcolm is already projecting what next year will look like for Aurigny. “The main goal is to establish ourselves in the markets we have entered this year,” he maintains. “Following the completion of a training programme, we will start using the enhanced vision system in the new ATR 72-600 aircraft from February onwards. Then, in the spring, we are looking to open at least one new route. We will definitely have enough capacity within our fleet to do some more activity and we are currently evaluating four potential UK and European destinations to open Guernsey to even more travellers.”
Guernsey’s flag carrier airline
Recently introduced services to Southampton and Jersey
Will be taking delivery of three new ATR 72-600 aircraft by the end of the year