'Blue Aurigny' guarantees UK 'lifeline' flights

Derek Coates Mr Coates said both the Alderney and Guernsey links to the UK were secure

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Airline Blue Islands has guaranteed to maintain "lifeline" links with the UK if it buys its rival Aurigny.

Maintaining the Guernsey to London Gatwick was the reason the States bought Aurigny for about £5m in 2003.

Both sides are currently carrying out due diligence and the sale is subject to the agreement of the States.

Derek Coates, chief executive officer of Healthspan the parent company of Blue Islands, said the routes were "utterly secure".

He said: "As part of the terms of this deal I am restricted in what I say... but the agreement we have got in principle secures the Gatwick slots by terms of the golden share."

A golden share, often held by governments when companies they own are privatise, gives its shareholder veto power in the event of certain specified circumstances.

Mr Coates said: "It provides the States with an option, if at any point we should fail to deliver our promises that they can in fact take the airlines back at the same price we paid for it."

He also spoke of the direct Alderney to Southampton route: "It is a lifeline and what's more I recognise that this actually is more important to Alderney than Guernsey in many ways.

"If the Gatwick slots were ever to go there is still Southampton, Birmingham, Exeter, Manchester.

"For Alderney this is all or nothing - without an airline the island is finished so I 100% appreciate the concerns that have been expressed there."

Aurigny Trislander Previously Mr Coates said some Trislander aircraft would remain to service Alderney routes

Mr Coates said the airline, which was previously denied permission to operate in competition to Aurigny on the Alderney to Southampton route, would look at encouraging tourism.

His company also owns one hotel in Alderney, as well as a number in Guernsey.

He said: "It's not just about one hotel with 28 bedrooms, that will not make Alderney flourish.

"It's about the whole of Alderney's tourism economy boosted because that boosts shops, that boosts the number of restaurants, that makes the island vibrant and that makes people want to go there."

Another concern raised by islanders is the end of the more than 40 year history of Aurigny, with the name seen as part of life in the islands.

Mr Coates said the name wasn't seen as a priority: "Whether the Alderney part is called Aurigny, whether we leave Joey yellow, whether it's called Blue Aurigny which doesn't quite work... we might call ourselves FlyBlue, it might be a complete change.

"The name for me at this moment, although emotional for people, is less important than it provides a tremendous quality of service to the people of these islands."

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