SENIOR management figures from budget airline Flybe is planning to visit Shetland later this summer as it prepares to go head-to-head with Loganair by scheduling flights to the islands from the start of September.
Flybe was the target of searing criticism from Loganair’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles when he was in the islands last week – prompting local politicians to urge their rivals to come to Shetland to start answering a multitude of questions about the future of the local air travel market.
Flybe’s chief revenue officer Vincent Hodder confirmed that senior airline figures would be coming to Shetland “within the next month or so” to meet politicians, industry figures and members of the public.
“We have plans in place with our CEO Christine Ourmieres, myself and our regional manager for Scotland to come and meet with the community,” he said.
“Both the government and council and the stakeholders, but as well the travelling public, to be able to answer the questions that people have and to understand what it is that our customers in the Shetlands are really looking for from us so that we can deliver a better proposition.”
Last week Hinkles accused Flybe of making factually inaccurate claims about its offering to passengers.
He said Ourmieres had been wrong to claim Flybe would offer “more choices and competitive pricing”, saying Flybe’s top fare was £20 higher than Loganair’s even before baggage fees – a minimum of £44 return – and credit card surcharges were added in.
Flybe is to operate two flights to Aberdeen and one each to Edinburgh and Glasgow daily following an acrimonious parting of ways with Loganair. The two had cooperated in a somewhat uneasy franchise agreement since 2008.
While its announcement was initially welcomed locally, in recent weeks politicians including Shetland MSP Tavish Scott have questioned how strong Flybe’s commitment to the Scottish islands.
“Whether it lasts a year is open to all kinds of questions,” Scott told Shetland News last week.
On Friday economist Tony Mackay said there would simply be too many empty seats for two airlines to be financially viable – and suggested Flybe might even “pull out before they actually start”.