Southampton and Exeter airports in the UK received a welcome boost this week with Channel Islands-based carrier Blue Islands announcing new routes from both hubs.
Blue Islands, which flew an ATR72 in its new corporate colours to Southampton and then on to Exeter on Thursday 9 July, says its goal is to replace capacity that was lost following the collapse of Flybe in March. As of 31 August the airline will offer four routes from Southampton to Jersey, Manchester, Dublin and Guernsey. This is a significant expansion for the 15-year-old regional carrier as it marks the first time it will base an aircraft outside of the Channel Islands. Blue Islands has however been operating between the islands and Southampton since 2007. Since 2016 it operated as a Flybe franchisee.
Initially Blue Islands will base a 70-seater ATR72 aircraft at Southampton creating 20 direct jobs for pilots, cabin crew and maintenance staff. A further 20 more indirect jobs will be generated in ground handling and other associated activities. Paul Simmons, Blue Islands’ Executive Director, explained that when the market improves, the airline “plans to add a second aircraft at Southampton, covering an increased selection of routes and frequencies.”
In addition to the new routes from Southampton, Blue Islands will also start daily flights from Exeter to Manchester from 31 August. And from the 3 September it will fly three times weekly from Exeter to Jersey. The airline will work with partners to offer connections for passengers travelling northbound beyond Manchester.
“Moving into Exeter Airport, where we also hope to set up a base in the next few months and position one of our ATR aircraft, is part of a significant expansion for us,” added Simmons.
Last weekend Exeter saw its first commercial flight depart the airport for the first time since lockdown began. “We’ve undertaken various measures in line with government guidance,” said Matt Roach, Exeter Airport’s Managing Director. “It went really well and it was great to see those flights were in demand and people really want to travel and we hope to continue seeing passenger confidence continue to build in the coming weeks.”
Scottish regional carrier Loganair started flying from Exeter for the first time at the beginning of July. The routes to Newcastle and Edinburgh are being operated on Embraer regional jets. “In the middle of a difficult period for aviation and UK business as a whole, the addition of Blue Islands and Loganair mark the first signs of recovery and give a much-needed boost to regional air connectivity,” continued Roach.
Following the announcement of Blue Islands’ new routes, the Channel-Islands based airline has partnered with Loganair to offer passengers a broad new range of regional air connections across the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.