Flybe and airport bosses remain locked in talks over the future operation of its remaining routes to the island – including the vital patient transfer service to Liverpool.
But after weeks of bad headlines for air services out of Ronaldsway there’s been some good news at last – with the announcement that BA CityFlyer is to resume three times a day flights on its London City route, a vital link for the island’s business community.
And an announcement is expected shortly on a new service to Glasgow, operated by another airline, to be launched from the end of March.
Flybe has also confirmed that it will ‘night-stop’ an aircraft on its Manchester route, ensuring early morning flights.
The airline announced last week that it was scrapping its summer-only services to Luton, Bristol and Jersey, and not reintroducing its Southampton route – leaving only Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.
It was only in September that Flybe signed a three-year contract, worth £1.6m a year, to operate the patient transfer service to Liverpool.
In Tynwald, Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK said his department was ‘still in dialogue’ with the airline over the Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool routes – and especially with regard to the patient transfer service.
A Flybe spokesman said: ‘At the present time, Flybe can only confirm it is currently in discussions with the Isle of Man Government via the airport regarding the specific operational needs of the Liverpool route.
‘It is proposed that Flybe will have an aircraft night stopping in the Isle of Man to operate the early morning flight to Manchester.’
Airport director Ann Reynolds confirmed: ‘We are talking with Flybe about the Liverpool patient transfer service which is of prime importance to the Department of Health.’
She said it was good news that Flybe would be night stopping an aircraft on the Manchester route but added: ‘I understand they will be using Manchester-based crews but not Isle of Man-based crews, sadly.’
Mr Cretney said he was delighted to announce that BA CityFlyer will be increasing frequency to three times a day on its London City route in the spring. The service was cut to one flight a day in September.
‘Full details will be announced in the coming weeks, hopefully by Christmas,’ he said. ‘Members will be aware that for some considerable time we have been working at the highest level to achieve this outcome.’
A spokesman for BA said a ‘good business schedule’ was being worked up for this ‘vital route’.
She said: ‘We are happy to come back to three flights a day. I’m sure this will be very well received in the island. We are delighted and just hope we continue to get the support for the route.’
Mr Cretney said he was ‘hopeful of some news shortly’ on a new service to Glasgow.
But there was some bad news, too, from the Minister who confirmed that 49 staff at Flybe’s Ronaldsway base have now been given notice of redundancy and will finish work at the end of January.
His announcement came during a debate on the island’s open skies policy. Tynwald voted to approve the economic policy review committee’s report which recommended no change to the policy that allows airlines free access to fly routes to and from Ronaldsway.
Peter Karran (Lib Van, Onchan) had tabled an amendment calling for the committee to resume its inquiries in the light of the changes announced by Flybe.
But Tynwald failed to back his amendment.