Case for route subsidies will be hard to prove

A Flybe aircraft at Isle of Man Airport

A Flybe aircraft at Isle of Man Airport

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Aiport director Ann Reynolds believes it unlikely that scrapped Flybe routes to the UK could be reinstated via government subsidy.

Flybe announced last week that it was withdrawing its direct summer-only flights to Bristol, Luton and Jersey and not reinstating the Southampton service which was dropped in July, after a two-month reprieve.

The airline is pulling out of Gatwick at the end of March, and having also ended the Glasgow and Edinburgh services operated by franchise partner Loganair in July, this will leave just three direct routes - Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Last week Flybe announced a commercial deal allowing it to continue operating twice-daily flights between Newquay and London Gatwick until October 25, 2014, pending an application by Cornwall Council for UK government Public Service Obligation (PSO) funding.

But Miss Reynolds said she didn’t believe the Manx government would go down a similar route to save threatened services.

She said: ‘I understand that usually PSO routes are vital for the economic development of the region they serve or are in operation in areas of difficult transport – eg in the Highlands and Islands, where there may only be an irregular 12 hour ferry journey between islands, so the government subsidises a small aircraft scheduled flight which takes only an hour, but has few passengers.

‘If there is no air carrier interested in operating the route, as there are so few passengers and/or no potential growth, the member state (in Newquay’s case, the UK Government) may subsidise an operator to provide a minimal service. The operator is determined by public tender.

‘There are currently no known PSO routes in England, so it will be interesting to see what happens with Newquay.

‘I don’t foresee the Isle of Man will be looking to go along the PSO route, as I think it would be extremely hard to prove any of the North West or South East areas are not able to be operated commercially.’

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