The island’s ‘Open Skies’ policy is under review, with a report due to be presented to the Council of Ministers later this month.
Enterprise Minister Dr Alex Allinson confirmed this to Keys this morning following a question from Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse.
Dr Allinson said that while the 50% drop in the UK’s Airport Passenger Duty sounds attractive, in reality this is only a reduction of £6.50 and the Manx gov does not expect this to passed onto passengers. Treasury Minister David Ashford has confirmed this drop in APD will not be extended to the island. The DfE Minister added that it is ‘unlikely’ to make a material difference to passengers’ decisions.
He told MHKs: ‘With regards to the island’s air links more generally, the department is currently leading a strategic review of air services. The objective of this review is to consider the historical performance of air routes, assess the current open skies policy and present a range of alternative policy options for consideration which would support the securing of air links which would meet the needs of the island, including the visitor economy.’
The Minister said this review is expected to be completed ‘imminently’ before it goes to CoMin for consideration later this month.
Following a supplementary question from Mr Moorhouse, Dr Allinson said that the price of flights is only ‘one determinate in attracting people to our island’. He added that routes, timetables and offerings on island also play into this and that Visit Isle of Man has a ‘very strong policy and strategy going forward, but to rebuild on the reduction of numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of the aviation industry and travel industry as a whole, but also to grow the visitor economy and meet the aspiration of having 500,000 visitors coming to our island by 2032’. Dr Allinson told Gef that prior to the pandemic the island was averaging about 320,000 visitors a year and the plan is to grow this through destination holidays as well as staging events.
What Is Open Skies?
The open skies policy means the island has a free market in air services and there is no obligation for any airline to maintain a minimum service. Interestingly, former chief Howard Quayle said he expected a review of the policy to be held once air travel resumed after the height of the pandemic.