Open letter to Mr Inglis Lyon, managing director, HIAL.
I am writing to object to your proposed implementation of car park charges at Sumburgh Airport.
I fly several times a year from Sumburgh and park in the car park. Each trip I am away for at least a month so will have to pay £90 in car park charges every time I fly. I have to drive to the airport, as there is no connecting bus service from my home to the airport and a taxi each way is in the region of £75.
You are implementing these new charges in spite of your increased income due to an 18 per cent increase of passenger numbers at Sumburgh and 7.4 per cent across HIAL as a whole. (Sumburgh numbers sky high; SN, 20/04/2018)
Sumburgh Airport is as much part of the lifeline service as Loganair is. Islander fares are subsidised by the Scottish government through the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) in order to encourage use of the air service and the airport.
For most islanders your car park charges will cancel out any benefit from the ADS so islanders will have no incentive to fly. The consequence of this will be that passenger numbers will drop for both HIAL and Loganair with a resulting drop in your income from airport landing charges.
You say that the money raised by the car parking charges, i.e £500,000 per year, will be used entirely for "improvements" at Sumburgh in addition to the £8 million you have already spent in the last three years to "create a faster, smoother airport experience for passengers".
What extra improvements may we expect to a provincial airport for the half-a-million pounds a year raised from the car park? Carrera marble floors throughout perhaps? Deep pile carpets in the departure lounge? Gold plated taps in the toilets? Saunas to relax passengers waiting on delayed flights? A golden dome on top of the control tower?
I suggest that you are in fact trying to recoup some of the £8 million you have already spent on Sumburgh Airport including the wooden "restin chair" for your boss Humza Yousaf who sanctioned your proposed charges.
I also suggest that, in giving the green light to the car park charges, Scottish transport minister Yousaf is trying to claw back from Shetlanders the Scottish Government's payment to the ADS (and NorthLink Ferries).
You, as managing director of HIAL, and the Scottish transport minister seem to think that those of us who live and work in remote islands are subsidy junkies that owe you a living. We don't. We more than pay our way already to keep you both in a job without you trying to disadvantage us further.