Audio: BIH ending Isles of Scilly service

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British International Helicopters (BIH) is to cease all operations to the Isles of Scilly, it was announced last night.

The news has been branded a “disaster” by local MP Andrew George, who has called for an emergency meeting over the link.

BIH blamed the decision on the uncertainty created by legal action being taken over the sale its Penzance base to Sainsbury’s.

It said the potential delays this could cause left it with little alternative but to close the route it has been operating for the past 49 years.

BIH first announced back in March 2010 that it was selling its Penzance base to Sainsbury’s, and had originally hoped to share Land’s End Airport with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group.

“In the absence of another operator coming forward, our focus now must be to work with the island community to ensure that we do our best to compensate for this loss of service”

When this deal fell through, BIH investigated the possibility of building a base in nearby St Erth, but these plans, too, had to be shelved in the face of fierce local opposition.

While searching for a new home, BIH said it would fly out of Newquay Airport, but now from October 31, it is calling time on the service altogether.

It leaves the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group – with its ferry and Skybus services – as the only link between Scilly and the mainland.

And Steamship Group chairman Andrew May moved swiftly to assure islanders that the company will do everything it can to bridge the shortfall caused by BIH’s absence.

He said: “We are disappointed and saddened by the announcement because the helicopter has been a fixture of islands’ travel for almost 50 years and during that time our two companies have worked together in a spirit of friendly competition.

“In the absence of another operator coming forward, our focus now must be to work with the island community to ensure that we do our best to compensate for this loss of service.

“The Steamship Company CEO and full board, of course, routinely considers strategic risks and changes to our business and although we were not anticipating this outcome, we are confident we can respond by looking at our scheduling and how we deploy our air and sea resources.”