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Helping Islanders to fly direct to sunshine holidays

From left: FlyDirect’s Nuria Arocas, Annie Andersen, Rebecca Larsson, Gina Stabler (at back), Elaine Nolan, Nadine Miller, Eva Köhler, Lisa Ellam, Liz Reeves and Stuart West Picture: ROB CURRIE (37062697)

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FOR many Islanders juggling busy lives, a chance to jet away and relax in the sunshine is an eagerly anticipated treat.

But this highlight of the calendar is one which, as the day of departure nears, is often fraught with anxiety, as thoughts turn to possible flight delays, missed connections and the fear of being stranded at a UK airport.

One company, however, offers an alternative approach to that much-needed holiday, operating direct flights from the Island to a range of sunshine destinations.

FlyDirect has been part of C.I. Travel Group for around 15 years, and, as the name suggests, it specialises in providing direct charter services to a range of destinations.

“The company operated on a fairly small scale for its first few years, before expanding significantly over the past three or four years, as demand for direct flights has grown,” explained marketing and business development manager Rebecca Larsson.

As a result of that increased demand, the ABTA-bonded company now operates flights from Guernsey and the Isle of Man as well as from UUֱ, where the 15-strong C.I. Travel Group team is based.

“While there was always demand for direct flights, that demand increased exponentially during Covid,” Rebecca added. “When countries started to reopen their borders, the traffic-light system meant that different rules applied to travel. For a while, UUֱ and Majorca were both rated green, which meant that there was no need to quarantine after spending time in either place, but parts of the UK were rated red.

“People quickly realised that, by taking a direct flight from UUֱ to Majorca, they could enjoy a holiday while avoiding the risk of getting caught in the UK and having to quarantine on their return to the Island. After experiencing the ease, speed and simplicity of a direct flight, not only have those people booked further holidays with us, but they have told family and friends about the advantages of travelling in that way.”

While Majorca has been a staple of the FlyDirect since the company’s launch – and remains one of its most popular routes – the firm has responded to the growing demand by adding new destinations to its itinerary.

“From next year, we will offer six destinations from UUֱ, the highest number we have ever had,” said reservations and operations manager Eva Köhler. “We will continue to offer our popular Tenerife winter programme, while flying in spring and summer to Majorca, Ibiza, Malaga, Faro and – new for 2024 – Split in Croatia.”

And while each destination added has, says Eva, been a “natural expansion for the company”, she and Rebecca are quick to say that selecting destinations is far from simple.

“We often get feedback from clients and Islanders about the places they would like us to add to the programme but, among other factors, the destinations have to be based on slot and aircraft availability, as well as the likely level of demand,” said Rebecca.

“We added Croatia for next year because we knew there was an appetite for somewhere different, and Croatia is a fashionable place to visit at the moment, featuring on a lot of ‘must-see lists’. Having said that, it’s always a risk to add a new destination, but we have already seen a high level of bookings, so we are confident that it will be a success.”

And high bookings are nothing new for the company.

“Over the past two summers, we have been very busy, with a lot of the flights operating at full capacity,” said Eva. “School holidays are always particularly busy but, with the range of destinations and dates available, we offer something for everybody from families and couples to single travellers and retirees. We are also becoming more popular for group trips, with discounts available for groups of eight or more people.”

Offering a choice of flight-only or flight and accommodation packages, Rebecca says that each customer can tailor their holiday to their requirements.

“For the more adventurous traveller, places like Croatia, the Algarve and Malaga are great because you can easily hire a car and explore a wide area,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ibiza, says Eva, offers something for everyone.

“While it has a reputation for being a bit of a party island, Ibiza is truly beautiful and it is very easy to stay somewhere quiet and avoid all the hustle and bustle if you want to,” she said. “It’s also possible to take one of the ferries from Ibiza to Formentera, where some clients choose to spend two or three days of their holiday.”

Offering tips and advice to help clients get the most from their holiday is, Rebecca adds, a key part of the FlyDirect service.

“Many of us have worked here for several years, building up not just a strong knowledge of our destinations but also good relationships with our clients, many of whom come to us year after year,” she smiled.

“As well as undertaking lots of research, the team members go on familiarisation trips to the resorts to ensure that they can talk knowledgeably to clients about the destinations,” added Eva.

“We are also very selective about the hotels we offer,” Becky added. “This is important because we have a responsibility towards our clients. They trust us to sell a quality product so we need to be confident that that’s what we are doing.”

And the team’s knowledge is just one reason, says Rebecca, that nearly 7,000 UUֱ residents chose to travel with FlyDirect in 2023.

“For all our flight-only offers and the majority of our packages, we only ask for a low deposit at the time of booking,” she said. “We also offer discounted rates for children on the majority of our services, and each fare includes hold luggage. We also try to arrange the flights at convenient times wherever possible, although this can depend on where the available aircraft are based”.

“Another advantage for UUֱ residents is that they come into the office and see us or pick up the phone at any time,” said Eva. “We also have an emergency number which people can use if something unexpected happens during their holiday.”

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