An aerial helicopter battle has broken out over passenger flights to the Isles of Scilly.
The company that currently operates a fixed wing ferry route from Lands End and a passenger and cargo ship link from Penzance has announce that it too will start to fly a helicopter service from May by Island Helicopters operated by Specialist Aviation Services (SAS).
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has been in a bitter battle with a rival operator Penzance Heliport Ltd who have tried to get a route re-established direct from Penzance to the islands. A service run by BIH closed down in November 2012.
Almost at every turn the Steamship Company has dogged the Heliport team in the courts over this helicopter battle. This has delayed the relative newcomers to island ferry links in getting their operation built and through planning etc.
HELICOPTER BATTLE FOR PASSENGERS
This will certainly be a set back to the Penzance Heliport group who made this statement today:
We would like to clarify that Penzance Heliport Ltd is not involved in the project announced today and today’s announcement changes nothing.
Penzance Heliport Ltd remains committed to reinstating genuine choice and reliability to the Isles of Scilly transport system through a helicopter service from Penzance.
The near sea-level location of the Penzance Heliport site is the keystone to reinstating a reliable, weather-resilient helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly. Land’s End Airport – which suffers disruption on one in every four days each year – is the problem, not the solution.
Today’s announcement sadly signals no more than one company tightening its stranglehold further on these islands. It is a blatant attempt to retain a monopoly that is not working in the interests of these islands.
The public reaction to today’s announcement has shown that people want genuine choice and real resilience in the Isles of Scilly transport system. That has always been our vision, and today we reaffirm that commitment.
The Steamship Company announced in their statement by Andrew May, chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said:
“We’re thrilled to welcome Island Helicopters to Land’s End Airport and look forward to sharing our modern facilities, which already handle more than 60,000 passengers a year. We know there is demand from thousands of people who have really missed the helicopter since it stopped in 2012.
“We’ve listened to that demand, investigated what we believe can work, and have partnered with SAS to make it happen. This gives visitors and islanders more choice over how they travel and makes the transport network more resilient, which is exactly what our customers say they want.”
He added: “We plan to fly to St Mary’s Airport and Tresco, subject to agreement with both. We know how important a direct high quality helicopter link is to Tresco’s customers and we are renewing our offer to Tresco to work with us to make the service a success for all of the islands.”
The helicopters that both companies would operate with will be the AW139 that carry 10 passengers.
From a personal point of view and I do not have the financial details of both companies to hand and I would think it difficult for two separate helicopter companies to operate long term to and from the islands with a near duplicate service.
A DAVID AND GOLIATH HELICOPTER BATTLE
On the plus side perhaps it could be a huge blessing for tourism to the islands with numerous day trip options being available?
However one has to ponder this question:
How come it’s taken six years for the Steamship Company to take up the helicopter option, knowing there was demand, which they themselves recognised?