Open Skies study is sensible move

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The headline ‘Setting record straight on Open Skies policy’ (Examiner, November 12) might suggest that the letter which follows would resolve the issue.

However the figures originally quoted by the Minister in Tynwald (according to the Examiner report), referred to ‘passengers’ from the North West – whereas the airport director’s letter restricts this to ‘air passengers’.

There has quite evidently been a downturn in overall numbers (sea and air passengers), as stated in Terry Liddiard’s letter (Examiner, November 5). The Manx2.com press release on November 14 confirms this: ‘As visitor numbers to the island continue to fall, Manx2.com has taken the decision, with regret, to temporarily suspend its services to Leeds Bradford and Oxford from January 8 for the first quarter of 2013.’

The airport director may well be correct in identifying growth on certain routes, but to obtain a real feel of the impact of the easyJet Liverpool service on the Isle of Man itself, it is obviously important that its effect on all ports and airports operating within the catchment area of ‘low cost’ operations from Liverpool are taken into account.

This is confirmed by Manx2.com managing director Dave Buck: ‘We have frequently warned that a declining market combined with substantial new capacity distorting northern and London travel patterns would inevitably result in changes to the depth and frequency of the island’s air network.’

However this is not just a matter of competition between airlines and routes – it is also evident that the Steam Packet’s passenger numbers have declined by a roughly equivalent number to easyJet’s carryings on the Liverpool route.

There may be differing points of view as to whether the absence of regulation has any real effect on the services we enjoy. Whilst the impressive array of destinations is often quoted as supporting the policy, it can equally be argued that more destinations have been lost than gained since the introduction of Open Skies, and that almost all of the genuinely new routes have been opened, some more successfully than others, by Manx2 , a vociferous opponent of the policy.

Nobody is arguing that the island does not enjoy an excellent choice of air services.

The reason that Travelwatch and others strongly support the Chief Minister’s call for an urgent review of the situation is that the British aviation scene is changing more rapidly and more drastically than at any time since the 1960s, and there is a real worry that we could see ourselves in a very different position even prior to the next election.

Our concern is that the long term interests of the island are protected as far as possible.

We believe that the proposed Open Skies Review is therefore a sensible move to consider the island’s options.

Brendan O’Friel

Chairman

TravelWatch Isle of Man

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