Dealing with a pandemic: Ports of Jersey CEO reflects on the most difficult period of his career

Matt Thomas.
Matt Thomas took up the role of Ports of Jersey CEO in July 2019. Credit: Ports of Jersey

"I was really nervous on the day flights resumed. Was the system going to work? Were the inevitable queues going to lead to public disorder and would it be scalable as demand increased?"

Matt Thomas, took up the position of Ports of Jersey CEO in July 2019. Little did he know about the countless number challenges he and his team would face in the following 24 months.

Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce lunch today (13 October), the man charged with managing Jersey's ports and harbours reflects on his time in the job.

At 6pm on 2 March 2020, Mr Thomas received a call to say the airline Flybe had gone into administration.

But the impact would be far greater as it could possibly cut off up to 30% of the island's connectivity which potentially could impact trade, tourism and supply links.

This would usually dominate the lives of people working within Ports of Jersey but this was small in what was about to come.

15 March 2020 Mr Thomas recalls the 'defining moment' Covid-19 had arrived in Jersey.

A flight from Tenerife was due to return and Covid-19 cases had been reported at the hotel where the passengers were staying. The plane was delayed by six hours with authorities debating whether or not to send the plane back to Jersey. As the plane took off Mr Thomas received a call:

He recalls that new operational procedures were being implemented mid-flight with real time communication between flight crew, ground crew and public health staff.

He commented the team came together, staff from all departments were "standing shoulder-to-shoulder", and he felt great pride that none of his colleagues questioned their role in managing the situation.

Staff from across Ports of Jersey were moved onto the frontline during the pandemic. Firefighters became ambulance drivers, customer service operatives worked on the Covid-19 helpline, all of them stepped up.

Looking forward Mr Thomas remains optimistic and he says Covid-19 presented opportunities to develop things that would not have happened before. It was a chance for the Ports of Jersey to rebuild relationships with external partners and look to the future.

Despite the ongoing pandemic new airlines and destinations have been introduced with the airport now back operating at 70% of its capacity compared with 2019.

Mr Thomas says the challenges facing Ports of Jersey remain the same but after navigating the tricky waters of the pandemic, the focus is on building a modern, flexible and service for the future.