Although flying boats or sea planes to Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney are a thing of the past and you can now fly with the larger low cost airline Flybe to Guernsey and Jersey, there’s nothing like flying in one of the Aurigny Trilanders, either between Southampton and the islands or as an interisland hop.
If you are taking a flight between islands it is a trip of full pleasure as you are likely to enjoy the sights of the smaller islands of Herm, Sark, Jethou and Brecqhou beneath you during your short fifteen minute hop.
Guernsey and Jersey have lovely new airports now, unlike the one described by the novelist of The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Literacy Society on her visit there several years back. They are spacious with pleasant facilities and there is an air of calm which you’d be hard pressed to find at Gatwick, Heathrow or even Luton. Southampton is similar. On reaching the Check in at Southampton airport I cannot help but grin with anticipation, especially if it is a bright day. I will soon be on my way and I can relax in their departures lounge and wait patiently for the flight. (Of course if fog descends it can be a different story)
My excitement is tenfold if I am flying with Aurigny to Alderney. Joey, as the Trilander is affectionately called waits outside the Gate, yellow and welcoming, overshadowed by the larger Flybe aeroplane by its side; a friendly puffin decorating its wing.
You are personally directed to your seat and once settled the pilot turns round to welcome you and to remind you to fasten your seat belts. You often fly across Southampton Water, watching cruise liners leave the port below and passing over what remains of The Royal Victoria Hospital, the largest in the world in its heyday, then Calshot Castle and Calshot Spit, after which the familiar shape of The Isle of Wight and the Needles fill your horizon. Then twenty minutes fly quickly by (sorry about that!) until you catch sight of Alderney, when my husband invariably gets nudged in the ribs in my excitement.
There is a proper runway now. The first time I flew to Alderney in a little Islander there was only grass and a small shed to welcome you. In those days you had to be weighed in order for the plane to be balanced and I even sat next to the pilot on one occasion.
The airport building today is still only a small hut, in comparison to Alderney’s sister islands, but there is a friendly cafe, welcoming staff and plenty of room to sit. In fact, Aurigny has a service I know of in no other place that, if there happens to be a sea fog and your flight is delayed, they will ring you at your hotel or guest house and ask you to stay put for a while. When it’s clear they will give you another call and, since the island is so small, the journey to and from the airport only takes a few minutes and you still arrive in plenty of time for the plane.
In fact, I consider a flight with Aurigny the start of the holiday rather than just part of the journey to my destination.