Aurigny Air Services (GR, Guernsey) has blamed its recent disruptions on unexpected technical issues with its soon-to-be-retired E195 and said that Eastern Airways (T3, Humberside) "failed to deliver" on contracted wet-lease capacity. In a letter to local deputies seen by the BBC, CEO Nico Bezuidenhout outlined plans to grow an in-house ATR72-600 fleet.

G-NSEY (msn 19000671), the carrier's only jet, is currently scheduled for phase-out at the end of April. Bezuidenhout revealed that costly maintenance issues meant that the type's exit was "time-sensitive". The aircraft was grounded for about two weeks in late January and early February due to corrosion found on its thrust reversers. The unexpected issue has impeded Aurigny's ability to operate its full schedule.

To cover for the grounding of the E195 and planned maintenance for its in-house ATR72s, Aurigny wet-leased an ATR72-600 from Eastern. However, Bezuidenhout claimed the arrangement was not successful.

"Eastern Airways failed to deliver the services as contracted, which severely compromised Aurigny's ability to respond to the unforeseen weather and technical challenges during February and March 2024. The contract with Eastern Airways has been terminated," he said.

"While Eastern Airways endeavoured to assist a fellow UK regional airline suffering from the same delayed delivery of aircraft and supply chain issues particularly impacting the ATR fleet variants that Aurigny have selected as its future sole fleet type, the same parts supply delays compounded by some long-term crew sickness impacted the ability to offer support for Aurigny. Our ad hoc support capacity was therefore less than intended and we ensured our own Newquay, London Gatwick, Nottingham East Midlands, Southampton, and Air France services were flown primarily," Eastern Airways' spokesperson told ch-aviation.

Aurigny Air Services plans to re-induct its third ATR72-600, which is currently at Dinard/St. Malo for maintenance, in mid-April. For now, it has wet-leased an DHC-8-Q400 from Avanti Air and was prepared to source additional ACMI capacity should the maintenance of its ATR be delayed.

As approved last year, Aurigny will replace the E195 with two additional dry-leased ATR72-600s. Bezuidenhout revealed that the first is scheduled for entry into service at the end of May followed by the other in August. The delivery of the latter has been significantly accelerated as it was initially planned for December 2024.

Despite acknowledging operational disruptions in recent weeks, Aurigny Air Services has said it is still growing compared to last year.

"The service disruptions experienced in quarter one of 2024 did not relate to new routes being launched, nor has it been a consequence to Aurigny's fleet transition. While the recent service reliability challenges on its UK network have been wholly regrettable, Aurigny did increase the number of flights delivered and the number of passengers carried, relative to the record volumes achieved over the comparative period last year," Bezuidenhout said after the local hospitality lobby starkly criticised the carrier.

Meanwhile, the Economic Development Bureau of the Guernsey government is reviewing its air transport licensing policy.

"We are expecting to complete the ATL policy review in the next month, but it would be sensible to include the pricing review in that work as well, and that additional piece of work may move the timelines further into mid-year," bureau president Neil Inder told the Guernsey Press.

Inder has sought information from Aurigny Air Services about its fare strategy and asked the government-owned carrier if it has enough aircraft to deliver on its ambitious network plans.

Guernsey Airport is heavily reliant on Aurigny Air Services as its 1,583-metre runway limits opportunities for other carriers, including narrowbody-operating LCCs. Blue Islands (SI, Jersey) is the only other carrier serving the Channel Island. Aurigny has a monopoly on the Guernsey-Alderney route and is the only airline serving the latter, which is a part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.