Setting record straight on Open Skies policy

I refer to the letter headlined ‘Open skies story may have been misleading’ by Terry Liddiard (Examiner, November 5).

As the person who supplied the minister with the statistics, with regard to the growth in air passengers between the Isle of Man and North West England, I believe Mr Liddiard may have inadvertently made a mistake.

The figures quoted are correct in the minister’s statement regarding the increase in air passengers to and from the North West since the introduction of the easyJet service between the Isle of Man and Liverpool, and certainly there was no question of misleading either members or the public.

To clarify, the 8.4 per cent quoted was the increase in annual North West air passengers from 2009, the year prior to the commencement of easyJet flights to Liverpool, to 2011, the most recent full calendar year with the competition on the route.

In fact, to refine these statistics further, the growth in North West Traffic between the 12 months immediately prior to easyJet commencing Liverpool and the last 12 months (October 2011 to September 2012) was actually over 13 per cent.

Moreover, in the first 12 months of the easyJet operation, the NW air traffic grew (in the face of a significant economic downturn) by 3 per cent, and did not decline.

It is correct that the number of scheduled destinations served from the Isle of Man has increased from 14 to 21 over the last 12 years of open skies.

It is also true that these new destinations could possibly have been inaugurated with, or without, a regulatory regime in place.

The fact is that we will never know whether a regulatory process involving the drafting and passing of an appropriate law, with its attendant regulations (including procedures for appeals); the establishment of a decision-making person or body (representing the interests of the Isle of Man); consideration, drafting and publishing of a licensing policy; and having to submit applications, the possibility of having to prepare for, and face, time-consuming and expensive hearings to contest objections, would have been a disincentive to entrepreneurial airlines looking to fly from the island.

What we do know is that we have generated, for the people of the island and in support of its economy, a remarkable air service network, providing diverse and competitive air travel for a community roughly the size of Bedford.

All this with the Open Skies regime.

So it could beg the question: why have regulatory restrictions with all the cost, bureaucracy and possible disincentives that go with it?

Mr Liddiard is a very well respected individual across the island, and none more so than from within certain quarters of the Department of Infrastructure.

I am responding to his letter to give assurance to him that in no way has the minister tried to mislead anyone, rather than a rebuttal to his comments.


Isle of Man Airport director.


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