SCOTTISH airline Loganair suffered its worst ever month in December in a year that was not kind to the aviation industry.
Commercial director Jonathan Hinkles told Shetland’s external transport forum on Wednesday the four weeks of severe winter weather at the end of 2010 came on top of disruption caused by volcanic ash last spring.
Sumburgh airport had coped relatively well with the adverse weather conditions and it was mainly due to Edinburgh ”disappearing off the map” that air services were as severely disrupted as they were, he said.
Overall passenger numbers through Sumburgh are down by 2.6 per cent in 2010 to 128,700.
Mr Hinkles said the airline had responded to the challenging year by introducing an adverse weather policy that allowed passengers to change flights more flexibly without incurring extra charges.
The company had also invested £100,000 in a de-icing rig at Sumburgh, but admitted this had not been fully successful, firstly due to damage inflicted on the de-icer in a ground collision in November last year and secondly due to technical problems with the replacement.
Mr Hinkles added that Loganair had “so far” managed to restrict fare increases to two per cent despite cost hikes in air traffic control charges and particularly aviation fuel.
“Cost of aviation fuel is about double in Shetland compared to Aberdeen. Therefore we prefer to bring it with us on our way to Shetland,” he said.
To improve the service Loganair is introducing a Sunday service between Sumburgh and Inverness as well as a dedicated Sunday flight between Shetland and Orkney. The twice weekly summer service to Bergen will commence in May, Mr Hinkles said.
He added that the airline’s decision not to serve any complimentary alcoholic drinks on their flights had widely been accepted and had also generated positive remarks from NHS Shetland.
Finally, the company managing director David Harrison defended the company’s recent decision to divert all local customer enquiries away from their Sumburgh phone number to a dedicated customer service team, based in Wick, under the new number 0844 800 2855.
“Particularly in bad weather the phone rang so much our staff couldn’t actually make any calls. It became very disruptive.
“Most of the calls were about flight information and anyone on our network has access to the same information. Staff in Wick are trained and have the same information than staff in Sumburgh, so there is no reason why they can’t answer all the queries,” he said.
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