Monday, 9 March 2020
Newspaper column 11 March 2020- Flybe
Coronavirus continues to dominate both the media and my work in Parliament as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Health Secretary. It is clearly a fast developing situation and it is important that all of us act responsibly but do not over-react to the situation. We all need to listen to the advice from the NHS and Public Health England and ensure we are following the guidance.
There was however another major story last week that was highly significant to us in Cornwall. The very sad news overnight last Wednesday that Flybe were ceasing operations and going into administration was deeply concerning.
I am very aware of how crucial Flybe, as the UK’s biggest domestic carrier, was to the future vital regional airports like Cornwall Airport Newquay and our economy in Cornwall.
Looking at the statistics, nearly two thirds of Cornwall Airport Newquay ‘s flights were operated by Flybe, including the vital Public Service Obligation route linking Cornwall to London. It is particularly concerning that this has happened just before Easter which marks the start of the tourist season and I know many local businesses will be concerned at the impact this will have.
When Flybe first encountered issues earlier in January this year, along with other colleagues in Parliament I raised this with the Government, who very quickly recognised the challenge and took action in pulling together plans to support the airline.
After this quick action from the Government then, it was very disappointing indeed to see Flybe’s decision last week to enter administration.
This decision was a commercial one, made by the company. The shareholders have stated there has been a severe impact of Coronavirus on Flybe’s trading, which has also been mirrored in many other airlines around the world.
As I said last week, the Government had been in constant talks with Flybe and its shareholders. The Government continued to be prepared to support them within what they are allowed to do legally under EU state aid rules (we are currently still subject to these rules during the transition phase of Brexit until the end of this year). Some people have read into this that I was blaming the EU for Flybe’s demise. This is not the case – it is simply just stating the fact that there are limits on what the government is allowed to do.
As soon as I became aware of the unfolding situation I spoke with the Aviation Minister, who has confirmed the government's ongoing support for both our airport and particularly our vital London connection.
I also raised the issue, and Cornwall Airport Newquay’s importance to our Duchy, in the House of Commons during the debate following the Statement from the Minister on Flybe on Thursday.
I have also heard from the Department for Work and Pensions about the support they are offering to Mid-Cornwall constituents affected by any job losses and if anyone has any concerns with this, please do get in touch with me and I will do what I can to help.
I have made it a top priority to work with the Department for Transport, Cornwall Council and the management of Cornwall Airport Newquay to find another airline to take on this route as soon as possible. Other airlines are already coming forward to take on routes previously carried by Flybe around the country and I will continue to work with all concerned over the coming weeks to ensure as many routes return to Cornwall Airport Newquay as possible. Progress is already being made and I am confident that we will see the London route and other flights connecting Cornwall to other parts of the UK operated by other airlines in the coming weeks. It is important to remember that only Flybe flights have been affected and all other airlines flying in and out of Newquay airport continue to operate as normal.
My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or email@example.com. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events