More than an airline - Flybe's lifeline connection to the Isle of Man

It was the news many were expecting, but few suspected it so soon.

Flybe falling into administration overnight left many of the UK's regional airports pondering over the future of their regional connections.

At Southampton airport, 95% of all flights to and from the city were operated by Flybe.

In the Isle of Man, just under half of all flights coming in and out of Ronaldsway Airport were operated by the airline.

But for the Manx people, Flybe's role went beyond simply connecting the Island to the wider world.

A 'literal lifeline'

Flybe was the airline that operated the Island's vital patient transfer service.

A service that meant all NHS patients could fly to medical facilities in Liverpool for treatment if necessary.

This included treatment of cancer, burns and transplants.

But once Flybe fell, the service fell with it.

However, after fears of a potential collapse in January, the Isle of Man Government formed a contingency plan if the airline was to cease operating.

A plan that was subsequently implemented the day following the announcement.

Patients who were due to travel in the immediate aftermath were given the option to travel on the Island's ferry service, with the financial support of the Steam Packet Company.

Something that sounded manageable, but it meant patients had to travel on a four-hour ferry trip into Heysham, followed by onward travel to Liverpool or Manchester, alongside potential accommodation for that evening.

All initially expected to be paid by the individual, before a reimbursement from the Department for Health and Social Care.

A contingency plan that in the end, did not work for many.

If anything, it highlighted how vital the air service was to the Department of Health and Social Care.

However, this was always going to be a temporary plan.

With all the lost routes described as "profitable" by the Chief Minister, an announcement was promised on what the future would look like for these vital connections.

At the next available sitting of the House of Keys, a selection of emergency questions were asked and it was announced that the first Flybe route had been claimed.

Loganair are now due be taking on the Liverpool route starting from 12th March as an 'interim solution'.

Despite EasyJet already operating a route to Liverpool, the Infrastructure Minister said this was a priority to re-enable the patient transfer service.

Something Loganair have now agreed to operate.

With one route restored, the Isle of Man Government have said the other routes are expected to be claimed with further announcements due soon.

But with the growing fear of coronavirus and an increasing reluctance to travel around the world, it's regional airlines such as these creating vital connections to the Isle of Man, who will suffer the most.