BISHOPS have expressed concern over the impact on internal connections in the UK and the economy in their regions caused by the collapse of the airline Flybe.
Areas including the Isle of Man, which relied on Flybe for essential transport to mainland hospitals, potentially face serious consequences. On Thursday of last week, the former Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, posted on Twitter: “The end of Flybe could be serious for @Isle_of_Man.”
The airline’s financial woes, which prompted a government bailout in January, escalated after the coronavirus outbreak led to a fall in passenger numbers. The company was declared insolvent on Thursday of last week. Small airports in the UK that were dependent on the airline have lost most of their flights.
Regional airports such as Anglesey, Southampton, Belfast City, Exeter, Newquay, Wick, Jersey, and Cardiff relied on Flybe for more than half their flights; their futures are now in jeopardy. On Monday, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, stated his concern for the effects on Cornwall.
He expressed hope that the Government would take the needs of
the region seriously. “The Newquay-London air link is not only vital to our economy: it also enables people from Cornwall to feel truly connected and able to play an active part in areas of life which might otherwise be denied to them.
”I don’t think it’s good enough to leave it to market forces to provide a solution which, we know, in reality, might provide connectivity during the summer months only. If this were a train-operating company, it’s unthinkable that ministers wouldn’t have stepped in right away.”
The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, also spoke on Monday: “We are concerned about the impact of Flybe’s collapse on the south-west’s connectivity and the local economy. Our transport links are already vulnerable, thanks to the susceptibility of the coastal rail line at Dawlish to bad weather.”
Similar thoughts were expressed the same day by the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd David McClay, who said: “George Best Belfast City Airport is a valued employer in East Belfast, and is vital for many of us who travel from and to Northern Ireland.”
Despite pressure on the Government to ensure that Flybe’s routes are maintained, climate activists have voiced their opposition. Many were also against the bailout of Flybe earlier this year.