Guernsey-based airline Blue Islands has announced its plans to restore key routes lost at Southampton Airport following the collapse of Flybe in March.
The Channel Islands carrier flew an ATR 72-500, G-ISLK (c/n 634), painted in its new corporate livery into the facility earlier this afternoon, as the operator confirmed four initial routes.
From August 31, Blue Islands plans to connect the Hampshire gateway with Jersey, Manchester, Dublin and Guernsey.
This is a significant expansion for the 15-year-old airline, which had previously connected only the Channel Islands with the mainland. From 2016, it also flew in Flybe colours as a franchisee.
Initially, a single 70-seat ATR 72 will be based at Southampton, creating 20 direct jobs, including pilots, cabin crew and maintenance staff. A further 20 indirect jobs will be generated, involving ground handling and other associated activities.
Paul Simmons, Blue Islands executive director, said: “When the market improves, [we] plan to add a second aircraft at Southampton, covering an increased selection of routes and frequencies.”
Rob Veron, the firm’s CEO, added: “We are proud to announce our new product offering, refreshed brand identity and new website. Our offering is tailored to the needs of regional passengers. Our aim is to make flying a pleasure again. It’s the little things that matter and make the welcome difference.”
NEW: We're at @SOU_Airport where Blue Islands G-ISLK has just touched down from #Jersey. The @ATRaircraft is the first in a new livery following the collapse of #Flybe.#avgeek #aviation #Southampton #ATR72 #airlinerworld pic.twitter.com/dKIU9prD7q— Airliner World (@_AirlinerWorld) July 9, 2020
The carrier is also adding more flights from the UK regions to Jersey including services from Bristol, Exeter, Birmingham and East Midlands.
Meanwhile, on Monday (July 6) the Government of Jersey agreed to provide a loan of up to £10m to the carrier in order to ensure “important links with UK regional airports and a number of European destinations” are maintained.
The Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Susie Pinel, commented: “This financial support will ensure resilience for our connectivity, maintaining access to essential medical care, education and connections with friends and family. This loan will also offer opportunities to develop more direct routes into European countries, and it provides an alternative to the larger airlines, for whom Jersey is a small operation.”
The island’s government is set to provide the loan of up to £10m, to be repaid over a six-year period.