A company that dramatically intervened to preserve the airline link between the Isle of Man and London City Airport has renewed its call for more support from local businesses.
With the route facing a severe reduction in service last year, Manx technology firm Microgaming agreed in January to underwrite the BA CityFlyer service.
Despite calls for other local businesses to share the burden, so far Microgaming is the only firm to contribute to the costs of underwriting the service, which continues to offer three daily flights between Ronaldsway and London City airports as part of the deal.
The company has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining the route, but also confirmed that it is e assessing demand for the flights on a monthly basis.
Passenger numbers have roughly met their expectations so far, but Microgaming’s finance director John Coleman has reminded business travellers that continued support for the route is essential.
‘There is most certainly room for improvement and we must once again encourage the local business community to use it otherwise the island could lose the route.
‘I have every confidence that the route can and will be commercially viable, but we all have a responsibility to use the service.’
No official cost figures have been released due to their commercial sensitivity, but Manx Business Connection, a group that aims to help companies do business in the Isle of Man, has claimed that the underwriting costs millions of pounds each year.
Explaining the value of the route to the island, Mr Coleman renewed his appeal for help from other local businesses to cover the costs of the underwriting.
He said: ‘The flights are valuable to Microgaming. However, they are significantly more valuable to the island’s economy.
‘Being able to do a day trip to London is an essential factor when running a global business from the Isle of Man. It is equally important for incoming trade – good transport links are a necessity in making the island an attractive place to do business.
‘We really must see the bigger picture when it comes to this topic.’
Minister for Economic Development Laurence Skelly MHK echoed his sentiments and urged other businesses to consider contributing.
he said: ‘Government welcomes the private sector’s involvement in helping to protect this key route, which is vital to many of our businesses to enable them to conduct business in the City and beyond.
‘It seems entirely reasonable that others in the private sector who rely upon this route should consider whether they are willing to support it.
‘We are very grateful to both Manx Business Connection and Microgaming for their actions and commitment to date.’
The MBC’s flight support group was instrumental in securing the deal between Microgaming and BA CityFlyer, and has been urging other companies to share the burden since the deal was announced.
However, only a small fraction of more than 200 local companies that were invited to find out more about the group have expressed any interest and Microgaming remains the sole underwriter to date.
In June the MBC warned of ‘significant adverse consequences to employment and GDP if the Isle of Man loses reliable services, operating at convenient times to a reputable London airport’, and warned that there was ‘no Plan B’ should Microgaming be unable to continue their support:
‘The lack of significant support suggests that last year’s widespread alarm at the prospect of losing the London flights has been quickly replaced by complacency.’
Earlier this year, Flybe pulled out of the Ronaldsway-Gatwick service, leaving the route to easyJet, which flies the route less frequently.