Multi-million pound project to put Gibraltar on airline map, with flights to UK and Eire
|A multi-million pound plan to put Gibraltar on the airline map was unfurled yesterday. A new Gibraltar-based airline is to offer 28 scheduled flights weekly from next March to six destinations in the UK and the Irish republic.
Robert Noonan, chairman of FlyGibraltar, said the project has now materialised "and we will provide passengers with reliable low cost travel with the highest standards of customer service."
It has long been Government policy to have air services to regional airports in the British isles, so the new airline has been given a warm welcome. Acting chief minister Joe Holliday said FlyGibraltar had an "ambitious schedule."
The airline will have two Boeing 737-300 aircraft, with a seating capacity of 148 passengers each, based at Gibraltar. Each morning they will fly out to different destinations - 11 flights weekly to London Stansted, five to Manchester, four to Bristol, another four to Birmingham, three to Dublin and one to Cork.
The aircraft have been leased from Astraeus Airlines of the UK and will be painted with FlyGibraltar's own livery.
As well as supplying the crews and maintenance, Astraeus will provide the operating licence for the first year of operations. There will be 20 pilots and 30 cabin crew. Cash flow for the first year is put at ?47 million.
FlyGibraltar will be registered in Gibraltar. They describe Astraeus Airlines as "one of the leading independent airlines in the UK operating a modern fleet, with the highest safety standards."
FlyGibraltar will be a low cost airline but will provide some frills, such as on-board meals and seat allocations. They will be carrying freight in and out of Gibraltar.
"It is intended to target a market within a 50-mile radius from Gibraltar, to include business, leisure and frequent travellers. Gibraltar and its hinterland will also be promoted in the UK and Irish destinations," said the company.
The pertinent licence applications are in the process of being filed with the Civil Aviation Authority.
At a Press conference yesterday, PANORAMA asked Mr Noonan if the project was motivated by the proposed airport deal with Spain, and if he would drop the idea if the deal did not go forward. He emphatically denied that the project was linked with any airport deal. To the contrary, he said, adding that they had been looking at the possibility of flying people out to Gibraltar for some time now. An airport deal would be a plus.
Mr Holliday said that no subsidy has been made available from the Government.
Said Mr Noonan: "We are grateful to the Government for the cooperation and advice given in putting together the final schedule so that FlyGibraltar's services can be tailor made to suit Gibraltar's needs. We are pleased that the project has now materialised and that we will provide passengers with reliable low cost travel with the highest standards of customer service."
For its part, the Government says it welcomes the launch of Fly Gibraltar.
The establishment of an airline based in Gibraltar falls in line with the Government?s policy of encouraging more air services to the Rock in particular from regional destinations in the UK.
A Government statement adds: Fly Gibraltar?s proposed schedule will allow Gibraltar?s business community to make day trips to the City of London through London Stansted, which is a short train ride from London?s Liverpool Street station. Services to regional airports in the UK and to Dublin and Cork in the Republic of Ireland, will open up new markets for Gibraltar and this undoubtedly will be welcome news for Gibraltar?s tourism industry.
As a Gibraltar-based company, Fly Gibraltar will provide employment opportunities for
Gibraltarians who wish to pursue a career in the airline industry.
?The Government has always been in discussion with various UK-based airlines to
encourage them to operate to Gibraltar from regional destinations in the UK,? said
Mr Holliday. ?Discussions with Fly Gibraltar have been ongoing
with the Government for some time now, considering various operations which
would be of most benefit to Gibraltar?s business and leisure travellers? needs. It is
encouraging to see that a company that has already made significant investments in
Gibraltar is willing to embark on this venture. The initiative is typical of the investor
confidence that exists in Gibraltar?s current economic climate.?