Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK has been in contact with both Flybe and easyJet today following confirmation that Flybe is selling off its arrival and departure slots at London Gatwick Airport. Flybe says the decision has been taken due to what it calls the anti-competitive and discriminatory pricing regime affecting smaller aircraft using Gatwick. The Isle of Man/Gatwick route is one of seven anchor routes currently served by Flybe.
The Minister received a letter from Andrew Strong, Managing Director of Flybe UK in the early hours this morning, outlining the reasons for the sale but also offering assurances that it will be business as usual for the Flybe IOM/Gatwick route until Saturday 29 March 2014, following which the slots will then become easyJet’s.
The Minister has also been in dialogue with easyJet today, who have confirmed that over the next few weeks they will be looking to see what additional rotations and capacity they could offer the Island from next summer.
The Minister said:
'I know that Flybe have been struggling against the exorbitant price increases that Gatwick Airport have levied against them over the last 2 – 3 years, and they had complained to the UK Civil Aviation Authority about the hike in airport charges they were facing. Only last week Andrew Strong told of how at Gatwick one of their Q400 aircraft, is charged the same amount of money as an easyJet Airbus A319 although it is half the size in passenger terms. These charges are not sustainable and when no Gatwick route is returning a profit, then today’s news was probably inevitable.'
When the runway slots become easyJet’s (30 March 2014), they can use them for any route they like and easyJet are not duty bound to use them on the destinations that Flybe currently use them for.
The Minister went on:
'Currently we have two other operators who fly to London. Firstly, BA CityFlyer already has a very good frequent service to London City, which is three times a day on weekdays and twice a day at weekends. The Department will be talking with BA CityFlyer in the coming weeks to see what capacity there is to increase the number of rotations per weekday from the Summer 2014. Secondly, we are in the advantageous position of already having easyJet on our London Gatwick route. It is a much better position to be asking for additional rotations on the route rather than to ask to start a new route, and most of the other airports facing the Flybe news today are not in the same position as we are.'
There will be changes to the other services that Flybe operate from the Isle of Man as a result of selling off the Gatwick slots. The Minister expressed concern for the Flybe staff currently employed on Island who may be affected by the sale, given that the current three based aircraft will drop to two, however, Mr Strong has informed the Department that he was not looking to make any IOM based staff redundant and would be talking to them about redeployment opportunities elsewhere in the company.
The Minister committed to make further announcements in this regard as matters develop.
For further information contact: Hon David Cretney MHK +44 1624 686642