The DoI has been in regular talks with airlines about increasing services to the island, but it does not anticipate flights to and from the UK capital to return to a higher frequency until next summer.
Minister Tim Crookall was asked for an update on the routes by Juan Watterson SHK, particularly regarding flights allowing return day business trips and whether his dept had spoken to the business community about helping to contribute towards costs.
Since restrictions on the borders were eased in June, easyJet and Loganair have operated flights to London from Ronaldsway, although these don’t allow for day trips as passenger numbers have not recovered to the levels they were prior to the pandemic.
Mr Crookall said: ‘Whilst discussions with both airlines are encouraging in respect of returning to other London destinations and for a higher frequency of services to allow for day return flights both to and from London to accommodate business traffic, this is not anticipated to happen until Summer 2022.
‘As yet, the Department has not held any discussions with the business community. The Department of Infrastructure will work closely with colleagues in the Department for Enterprise who would be the most appropriate department to communicate with the business community.
‘The Department for Enterprise are currently undertaking an Air Services Review to gather information and feedback from service users, as well as assessing potential policy options for consideration which may serve to secure critical air links in the future. The Department of Infrastructure will work with the Department for Enterprise, and the Council of Ministers, following the completion of the review in respect of the implementation of any agreed actions.’
After a separate question to Enterprise Minister Dr Alex Allinson about his dept’s engagement with the business community, Dr Allinson said he was aware of the concerns of business. These have been heightened by the ending of regular flights to Heathrow and the limited frequency of services to London and the south east of the UK more generally.
Dr Allinson added: ‘A key element of the review has been to understand the needs of businesses. The Department led on this phase of the review and has facilitated meetings with each of the Department’s four executive agencies and the Chamber of Commerce. Additionally a survey was distributed to businesses and industry representative bodies, attracting over 500 responses. This analysis of need will be incorporated into the review, ensuring that potential policy options are aligned to the requirements of the island.
‘The Department is also aware of a small number of businesses who from time to time have commissioned and funded their own services but as the review is ongoing, there has been no discussion at this stage on implementation of any particular policy options, including the requirement for any funding. Given the strategic importance of air services to the island, the Department has committed to completing the review in a short timescale and intends to report back to Council during November 2021.’