We all love a good moan don't we? In Shetland that historically revolves around two subjects – the weather and/or the cost of travel or level of service to and from the islands – or sometimes even the two combined!
So, in a week which started with the Scottish Government announcing cheaper ferry fares on NorthLink - with hopefully more to follow - and, for the first time in many years, there being hopefully healthy competition on our air links to and from the Scottish mainland – not to mention there being only one particularly bad day of weather this week – you might have been forgiven for expecting the moan level to have subsided slightly. Not a bit of it!
First up, several Loganair passengers faced changes to their scheduled timetable, followed by Flybe's new service suffering badly from Monday's inclement weather – with Loganair affected to the tune of 30 per cent delays in their service on that day too of course. As a result, the moan monitor – on social media at least – went off the scale.
Having said that, it's entirely understandable. Nobody likes having their travels plans disrupted, and we've all suffered from that one over the years living where we do.
Of course, mediums such as Facebook offer us the chance not only to have an instantaneous rant about such things, but equally the opportunity to point accusing fingers and spread our condemnation of those we blame for our personal frustrations far and wide too. Entirely understandable as I say.
But for many to virtually damn those involved to the point of "I'll never use (company x) again" seems somewhat extreme, especially given the 'early days' tenure of both services and the fact that – to date at least – it's only been one day of weather disruption primarily for Flybe, plus an initial schedule change for Loganair – something all airlines face from time to time. OK, perhaps they both already have 'history' on the route - but nevertheless.
Surely, given the potential benefits of this new structure – in terms of the general travelling public and Shetland's local economy at least - we should afford both the opportunity to get things right before we totally condemn them out of hand.
For instance, consider just some of the potential benefits here – a non-monopoly situation on our air routes with cheaper fares generally across the board already resulting from this; choice; an enhanced (and hopefully sustainable) timetable to and from all Scotland's major cities and, together with those cheaper fares, additional capacity to and from the islands, perhaps ultimately resulting in increased visitor numbers, plus the chance (for some folk at least) to perhaps travel south more often now. Then there's the additional jobs at Sumburgh this has created to take into consideration too.
So, although there might still be some things to moan about – I totally agree the service(s) are far from perfect yet - there's potentially quite a lot to praise and be happy about too.
Scanning social media since Monday's general day of debacle (most notably in relation to Flybe) it seems the moans have subsided dramatically – no doubt due to the fact that both services have been running pretty much to schedule since. So it seems a shame that we're very quick to publicly criticise when things don't go according to plan, but, in turn, very slow to praise when things do work well.
As Shetlanders we know only too well that monopoly situations rarely favour us, so surely this is something to be welcomed, not derided – providing of course that the two services can be sustained over an extended period of time, perhaps through increased usage/capacity. And if fares are maintained at a lower level than we've experienced in the past, hopefully this will be the eventual outcome.
Finally, I also saw a few folk this week generally condemn Shetland's current air and sea service provision as being 's***e'. Of course, they are entitled to their opinion, but I'm sure there are a few small island groups elsewhere who would give their right hand for the travel infrastructure we enjoy here – whatever its occasional frustrations.