The History Of Guernsey’s Airline Aurigny

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As some of our readers may not have heard of Aurigny, we thought we’d take a look at the history of Guernsey’s airline. Before we get into the airline and how it came to be, it is important to know where Guernsey is and why having an airline is important.

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Aurigny has four ATR72s. Photo: RHL Images via Wikipedia

Guernsey is an island in the English Channel located off the coast of Normandy, France. Together with the other Channel Islands – Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Brechou, Jethou, and Lihou – it was part of the medieval Duchy of Normandy. King John lost his French lands to Philip II of France in 1204 but managed to hold on to the Channel Islands. Despite only having a land area of 65 km2 (25 sq mi), Guernsey has a thriving population of around 63,000.

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The Germans occupied Guernsey

Despite being much closer to France than England, Guernsey has remained staunchly English and was occupied by the German Army during the Second World War. Following the war, air service between the British Crown Dependency the British mainland was started by British European Airways (BEA). Jersey Airlines later took over the route, followed by British United Airways (BUA).

After BUA gave up on the route, Aurigny Air Services was founded by Sir Derrick Bailey and began operations on 1 March 1968. Starting life flying Britten-Norman Islander aircraft, Aurigny developed a network linking Guernsey to England and France and the other islands in the archipelago.

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Aurigny used the Trislander for inter-island flights. Photo: NMOS332 via Wikipedia

Based at Guernsey Airport (GCI), the name is derived from the Norman world for Alderney, an island close to Guernsey and the location of the airline’s founding. In 1977, Aurigny became the first airline to ban smoking and is the United Kingdom’s second-oldest regional airline after Scotland’s Loganair.

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Aurigny was loved in particular for its red-nosed Trislander registered G-JOEY. JOEY had a red nose and happy face added in 1988 when the BBC did its first Comic Relief fundraiser, and became incredibly popular, even getting its own fan club! It served the islands for more than 40 years, and had a book written about it by Susie Gallienne called Joey and the Penguins.

In June 2015, JOEY made its final flight. Pilot David Rice described the atmosphere on the final flight as “strange” and “interesting”. He noted the fame that the aircraft had acquired since it got its red nose, telling the BBC,

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“It’s just grown since then with Joey flights, Joey certificates, Joey club and for the last few weeks we’ve had people coming from all over… to come and do a flight before he retires.”

Aurigny was nationalized in 2003

In a bid to maintain its vital connection to London, Aurigny was eventually nationalized by the State of Guernsey in 2003 and continued to grow by flying to more destinations in the United Kingdom. In July 2010, a fellow Channel Island carrier based in Jersey Blue Islands tried to buy the airline, but Guernsey’s Treasury and Resources would not approve the deal.

Aurigny_bought an Embraer ERJ-195 to increase capacity on its London route. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikipedia

Mark Darby joined the airline as its CEO in 2013 and, after six months at the helm, initiated an eight-week trial of the Dornier 228 as a replacement for the airline’s Trislander fleet. The successful trial led to the purchase of four aircraft from the German manufacturer.

When Flybe announced that it was dropping its London Gatwick flight to Guernsey in 2014, Aurigny ordered an Embraer 195 for extra capacity and became the sole operator on the route.

Aurigny has seven aircraft

After winning countless awards for its service, Aurigny is still flying today and has, according to Planespotters.net, a fleet made up of the following aircraft:

  • Four ATR 72s with an average age of 3.8 years
  • One  ERJ-195 that is 6.7-years-old
  • Two Dornier 228NG

As you can see from the Aurigny route map, the airline currently flies to 13 destinations, of which most are in the United Kingdom.

Have you ever flown with Aurigny? If so, we would love to hear what you think about them in the comments.

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