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House: Talks with new airline for Europe

Bermuda has much to gain if the Government can secure an air service out of Heathrow airport, said Tourism Development and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell, who attends a major airline conference next month in South Africa.

“I have been assured that the meetings are going to be very productive and have a great deal of potential for Bermuda,” Mr Crockwell told The Royal Gazette.

Interest has been shown by a new carrier to serve the Island from Britain, the minister told MPs yesterday in the House of Assembly, although he declined to specify which company was behind the talks, calling it “premature” to do so.

“There is an airline carrier that we really feel has potential,” he said — with members of Opposition telling this newspaper they knew Virgin to be the carrier in question.

Outside of Britain, there has been no overture by a European carrier, Mr Crockwell said, and there has been no “viable interest” expressed in providing a service between Bermuda and Europe since 2012. Mr Crockwell acknowledged that the existing service from British Airways to Gatwick had lately drawn some complaints from travellers, and said competition would be in the Island's best interests.

“Heathrow has connectivity with Europe,” he said. “Right now you have to travel between Heathrow and Gatwick to get to Bermuda. Today's traveller does not like to go through that kind of hassle. We think it would be very useful to attract airlines coming out of Heathrow, particularly with the America's Cup coming in 2017, when the volume of people travelling to Bermuda will be quite significant.”

Leader of the Opposition Marc Bean said that Norwegian Airlines, a major low-cost European service operating 787 aircraft, was “the one we should be targeting”.

Mr Bean noted that when Zoom Airlines had provided an alternative service to the Island, there had been no loss felt by British Airways but a substantial extra uplift from the UK. Aer Lingus, Ireland's flag carrier, came in at second place on the Opposition leader's list, as a hybrid of mixed fare services, with Virgin coming in third.

Shadow minister Lawrence Scott said he believed both Virgin and easyJet had shown interest in Bermuda as a destination.

“From my knowledge, I don't think easyJet has the equipment to service the Bermuda market, particularly with our geographical location,” Mr Scott said.

“Virgin might find Bermuda more attractive.”

The minister refused to be drawn during questions in Parliament.

Asked by the Opposition if interests had been shown by Virgin or easyJet, Mr Crockwell replied: “I am aware of one.”

Zoom Airlines had coexisted well with the British Airways service, Mr Crockwell told the House of Assembly, but the budget airline had become a casualty of the fuel cost crisis that plagued the industry.

Zoom folded abruptly in 2008, leaving British Airways as the only carrier servicing the Island from Britain.

Shawn Crockwell, Minister of Tourism Development and Transport

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Published August 18, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 18, 2015 at 12:53 pm)

House: Talks with new airline for Europe

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