Regional UK airline Flybe has come under fire on Twitter this week as they’ve decided to drop the Cornish language from their Newquay to London flights. Previously, the airline had advertised the new route in Cornish and had made some announcements on the aircraft in Cornish too. The people of Cornwall are not happy with the decision.
How Flybe went Cornish and then didn’t
When Flybe took on the Newquay to London route at the end of March, they went one step beyond. Using the Cornish language in advertising and reportedly making announcements on the plane in Cornish too won them a lot of brownie points with the locals from the southwest.
However, it appears that this was not a long term strategy, as they seem to have now decided to drop the Cornish from their flights. BIG MISTAKE number one.
The lack of Cornish announcements was picked up by Cornish Stuff, who took to Twitter to raise the issue.
Took advantage of the @flybe Newquay to Heathrow flight for a day’s meetings in London yesterday. Listened out for the announcement in Cornish on the plane but there wasn’t one. Where has it gone ?
— CornishStuff (@CornishStuff) July 31, 2019
To be fair to Flybe, they went ahead and responded to the question.
Hi there, thanks for getting in touch today. Regarding your query, I can confirm that as Cornwall is in England, the announcements would be done in the most common language for that country which is English. I hope this clears this up for you. – Chloe
— Flybe ✈ (@flybe) July 31, 2019
This tweet contained BIG MISTAKE number two.
Cornwall, at least to the Cornish, is not necessarily part of England. It’s attached to England, sure, and joins in with all the English things like taxes and other centrally controlled stuff. Heck, some may even argue that there are more English in Cornwall than Cornish, and they’d probably be right. But to state unequivocally that Cornwall is part of England is just asking for trouble.
Flybe – how can you confirm that Cornwall is in England? Do you have any evidence for this whatsoever? You must do since you sound so certain of it. And even if it were the case (which you’ll find it isn’t): how is that a good reason not to use a local langauge?
— Alexander Prior (@AlexPriorMusic) August 1, 2019
@flybe hello, I wonder if you could clarify something for me.? I understand you have stated “Cornwall is in England”. Could tell me exactly when this happened?
— Tredhek (@Tredhek) July 31, 2019
You can *’confirm’* that *’Cornwall is in England’*??? You’ll have to try harder on your knowledge of constitutional matters, Chloe, no-one yet has proved that.
See the attached image for the original @flybe announcement details. pic.twitter.com/cxOZVxouXO
— Cornish News ❖ (@CornishNews) July 31, 2019
And then Flybe delivered the killer blow.
Hi Matt, thank you for responding. When this route recently opened we used the Cornish announcement as a welcome on board nice gesture however, this was only for the first few operating flights of this route and was not a permanent policy. This is why … https://t.co/cQqRb6h8KC
— Flybe ✈ (@flybe) July 31, 2019
A ’nice gesture’? You can imagine the response they got to that.
It was clearly just a @flybe PR job where they were using our culture and language to make money for themselves rather than being genuine.
— Radyo an Gernewegva (@Kernewegva) July 31, 2019
Frankly rude & ignorant that your company has chosen to drop Kernowek. You obviously spent money on it. You made recordings. Are your profit margins so minimal that you can’t pay a single voice artist an extension fee? And you’d be hard pressed to prove Cornwall is in England.
— Callum Coates (@coates_callum) July 31, 2019
Flybe told Cornish Stuff that they would “… love it to be a permanent feature. But we can’t guarantee the same aircraft is used on the route every day and so it’s logistically difficult as any extra PA messages have to be individually loaded into on-board systems and can’t be ‘isolated’ on routes where there would be no relevance”.
That almost explains the lack of Cornish welcome, but doesn’t really sort out the ‘Cornwall is in England’ or the ‘nice gesture’ issues.
What is this nonsense?
The notion that Cornwall is not part of England might sound bit far-fetched to those not from the Westcountry, but in actual fact, it’s true. Sort of.
Back in 2014, Cornwall was granted minority status under European rules. While this doesn’t grant the Duchy actual independence, it does grant the people of Cornwall the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and Irish.
The applicable rule, rather catchily named the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, sets out to promote equality and preserve the culture of national minorities. As a result of the ruling, the then Deputy PM Nick Clegg pledged to inject £120,000 into the Cornish Language Partnership to promote and develop the language.
As such, Flybe was openly praised by Jesse Foot, Cornwall Councilor for St Germans and Landulph in a recent article reflecting on five years of minority status. A proud supporter of the Duchy language, Foot commented that,
“… the interest in learning Cornish has increased, fostered by great use of the language in advertising campaigns by Kelly’s Ice Cream and by FlyBe on the recently launched Cornwall Airport Newquay to London Heathrow route.”
Shame it was just a PR stunt and didn’t stick around.
What did Flybe say?
Simple Flying reached out to Flybe for comment, who responded saying,
Flybe is pleased that its Cornish language welcome was so well received onboard our first flights between Cornwall Airport Newquay and London Heathrow. We were very honoured to have had the opportunity to celebrate it on board by incorporating a translated version of our normal passenger welcome into the usual pre-recorded PA.
This was the first time we had done something like this and this special PA message had to be individually loaded into the on-board system and can’t be ‘isolated’. No one aircraft ever operates just one specific route, so were it to remain ‘in situ’ it would have no relevance on the majority of the other routes we operate such as, for example, between Manchester and Aberdeen and onto which that aircraft might then be deployed.
While we’d really love this to be a permanent feature on every single flight we operate to and from Cornwall, and to be able to do the same for all the other individual language groups across the many routes we operate, it is quite simply logistically impossible.
Was Flybe in the wrong?
As a Cornish maid myself and married into a long line of Kernowek residents, this issue does resonate with me somewhat. I feel that, although Flybe made a business case for dropping the Cornish welcome, they are still in the wrong.
I support their notion of not being to use multiple languages on board (I don’t think they use Welsh when flying from Cardiff, or Gaelic when flying from Glasgow, but correct me if I’m wrong) but perhaps they shouldn’t have used it at all.
In the modern world where cultural appropriation is a big no-no, to use a language which many people hold dear as nothing more than a bit of marketing is ill-advised at best. What do you think? Should Flybe apologize for using Cornish then dropping it? Let us know in the comments!