Aurigny Air Services welcomed its first jet, the Embraer 195, into its fleet last night with a launch at Guernsey Airport’s hangar.
The new aircraft has been hailed as a significant milestone for the state-run airline, and will now provide 122 seats to and from Guernsey to London Gatwick four times a day.
The launch comes 10 months after Flybe announced its withdrawal from the ‘lifeline’ route, prompting Aurigny to respond as quickly as possible.
“There was anger when Flybe announced it was to pull the Gatwick route and as our main connecting point and biggest route it was important we moved to protect it,” Aurigny’s CEO Mark Darby told Travel Daily. “We are really thrilled to have the Embraer in our fleet; Aurigny serves the local community and it feels more personal here to the islanders to have our own jet. If we hadn’t bought the aircraft we would be in the same position as the Isle of Man without Flybe at the mercy of easyJet instead of what is really needed here.”
The new aircraft cuts the journey time to 35 minutes, with slim seats selected to provide more legroom for passengers. The route also has an extra cabin crew member compared to its smaller aircraft to ensure the same service level.
The Embraer is not the airline’s only new fleet entries this year with two 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft also on order which will operate new flights from London City. Scheduled to start in September, the new route will be the airline’s third from London in addition to Gatwick and Stansted.
Plans are also in place to retire the carrier’s two Trislanders including the famous ‘Joey’, although they are still likely to be used for other purposes.
“The Dornier 228 is another step forward for us, the Trislander is quite an experience but the Dornier will bring a more airline service feel and it is quieter and faster. We plan to use those for the London City route but if success we’d hope to place larger aircraft on that route soon,” Darby added.
The new routes and aircraft are putting the carrier on track to profitability next year, with Aurigny looking to break even in 2014 after posting a loss of GBP3.5m in 2013.