2nd August 2012
British International Helicopters and the future.
British International Helicopters will continue to fly from Penzance to Tresco until 31st October 2012. From 1st November the helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly will end. In a statement released yesterday BIH announced:
“British International Helicopters (BIH) has taken the very difficult decision to close the domestic helicopter passenger route between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly. This is effective from 1 November 2012.
The company will honour all customer flights booked up until 31 October 2012. Anyone with a flight booked after 1 November will be given a full refund. The closure of the heliport will affect employees and the company has entered a formal redundancy consultation process.
The decision to close the route was finally triggered by legal action taken by Tesco and two private individuals. These legal actions challenge the process undertaken by Cornwall Council and the Secretary of State when planning permission was granted.
These legal challenges at this very late stage of the planning process have prevented BIH from completing the sale of the land to Sainsbury’s and created too many uncertainties for the passenger service to continue. BIH has repeatedly stated publicly that the land needed to be sold in a reasonable time frame to release the capital required to continue the service.”
Tresco Estate is, of course, saddened by this turn of events. In particular our thoughts go out to all members of BIH staff, many of whom may now face an uncertain future. We would like to thank them for the dedicated and friendly service that they have offered both islanders and visitors alike and wish them the very best for the future.
Our immediate concern is to assure our visitors that preparations have been made for this eventuality. The closure of BIH is regrettable but the uncertainty surrounding the helicopter and Penzance heliport has led to a weakened service. With the decision having been made, we are all now able to move forward with real purpose.
The future – what happens next?
BIH will continue to run their service from Penzance until 1st Nov 2012. All tickets that have already been booked beyond 31st October 2012 will be fully refunded by BIH.
How will I travel to Tresco?
The Steamship Group is confident that it can deploy its air and sea resources to accommodate this loss of service. Already there is considerable investment from the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company in their Skybus infrastructure. We understand that the Skybus fleet will be predominantly based on the larger Twin Otter aircraft to deal with the expected increase in demand.
Where will I fly to and from?
Skybus will focus their efforts on providing flights to the Isles of Scilly from Land’s End, Newquay and Exeter.
Exeter: Tresco Estate favours Exeter as the principal hub for flights to Tresco. We have already opened negotiations with Exeter Airport and Skybus to achieve maximum customer benefits, such as dedicated security gates, a lounge area for Isles of Scilly passengers and reduced check-in times.
With one hour flying time from Exeter to St Mary’s, high-quality taxi and boat transfers, along with Tresco Estate porterage, we believe that we can provide a faster, smoother and hopefully more competitive service. Exeter is also the hub for Flybe, which operates to many UK and European destinations.
Land’s End: The expansion and refurbishment of Land’s End Airport is currently underway. This will greatly enhance the customer experience for those passengers choosing to fly from West Cornwall.
St Mary’s: In anticipation of the possible withdrawal of the helicopter service, the Isles of Scilly Council has applied for ERDF funding to carry out significant improvements to St Mary’s airport, runways and terminal building, as well as electronic landing systems which will greatly improve access in adverse weather conditions. These works should be complete by early 2014.
Scillonian III: The Scillonian III will be undergoing a major internal refit during the coming winter in order to improve standards of passenger comfort and enable the ship to continue its service to the islands until 2018 at least.
Arrival and departure
As always, we aim to provide a first-class service and we will be offering a bespoke transfer service from arrival on the Isles of Scilly to departure. We aim to put in place a seamless travel experience suitable for all abilities and age groups.
Further information: For the time being it remains “Business as usual”. If there are particular issues with your specific travel details, we will be in touch.
We will endeavour to keep everybody informed through email, our website www.tresco.co.uk and the Tresco Times.
Skybus will be releasing new fixed-wing flight schedules as soon as they are available.
These islands have been inhabited for over 3,000 years. The reason for this is that successive generations of islanders have always had the ability to adapt to changes as they occur.
Despite the sadness that will be brought by the loss of the helicopters in November, I believe that this will also be an opportunity to co-ordinate and develop a cohesive transport system that ultimately will be to the benefit of us all.
Tresco remains one of the most beautiful places in the world. My family and all Estate employees will continue to dedicate ourselves to protecting, enhancing and strengthening a place which is unique within the British Isles.
Robert Dorrien Smith