Councillor Warns That Scilly’s Air Route Could Be Unsustainable

The owner of Tresco Estate has warned councillors that the air service to Scilly may be unsustainable without change.

Cllr Robert Dorrien Smith reacted to annual passenger figures, revealed at yesterday’s Transport Committee meeting.

The Council is forecasting 16,000 fewer travellers through the airport than the 108,000 predicted for 2013. That means that the annual airport income will be £172,000 lower than anticipated, because they didn’t get the landing and passenger fees they budgeted for.

Robert estimates that, based on an average £90 fare, Skybus’ income would be £1.5m down.

He told councillors they should consider what that could mean for the community and the service we have if numbers declined further.

But Steamship Company Chief Executive Jeff Marston, who wasn’t in the meeting, told Radio Scilly the business remains sustainable.

Jeff accepts that air passenger numbers had fallen again, but claims that many staying visitors are now using the Scillonian III.

He says that the combined boat and air passenger numbers fell by 5% this year. Jeff says that this is “disappointing” but he says the poor start and bad end to the year is partially to blame.

October numbers were down significantly.

Jeff says the company is committed to operating the service and that’s why they’ve agreed to long-term investments in the Land’s End terminal and runway.

As the airport income falls again, a team from Blackpool Airport have been hired to advise our Council on whether the airport is as efficient as it could be.

Council Strategic Investor Manager, Diana Mompoloki, told councillors it was better to use an operator from outside the South West to do the work.

Their two-day consultation visit starts on November 28th and will cost the Council  £5,000. The money has already been put aside.

It was going to be used by another consultancy firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff. They were hired to encourage additional airlines to fly to St Mary’s, but no other operators were interested.

Robert Dorrien Smith welcomed the exercise and told members he’d been asking for the cost and efficiency audit for some time.

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