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Minister to tackle Loganair

Transport and islands minister Derek Mackay in Lerwick on Thursday. Photo Chris Cope/Shetnews

SCOTTISH transport and islands minister Derek Mackay is to meet with Loganair to discuss high air fares and the reliability of flights to and from Shetland.

Mackay made the promise during his brief visit to the isles on Thursday when he launched plans to undertake a comprehensive study into the next northern isles ferry tendering process.

Shetland’s air links to the mainland are currently under huge scrutiny following an internet campaign highlighting islanders’ frustrations about fares and delays.

However the minister made it clear he was not planning to raise the Air Discount Scheme to cut fares by 50 per cent, as called for by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.

Instead he intends to explore how flight fares themselves can be reduced or kept at current levels.

“There are two issues in terms of aviation on the islands – one is fares, and the second is reliability,” he said.

“I will be having a meeting with the operator to raise both issues to see what can be done.

“In terms of the Air Discount Scheme, I think the scheme has been well received by residents.

“But I want to know what the operator is willing to do in terms of reducing fares or certainly freezing them going forward.”

The Facebook page Islanders against Flybe/Loganair’s Excessive Prices now has over 15,000 disgruntled followers who have grown weary of the price of flying to and from the Scottish isles.

In July, campaign leader Scott Preston met with Mackay to discuss the issues raised by the project.

The group previously met with Loganair chief executive Stewart Adams, who promised to introduce compassionate discounts to those flying at short notice to events such as funerals, while he also spoke of increasing efforts to solve reliability issues.

Mackay added that he had “great sympathy” with the campaigners’ plight.

Ironically, the politician experienced some of the problems local people suffer regularly when his flight up to Shetland on Wednesday was delayed due to technical difficulties.

Things didn’t get much better on Thursday for Mackay, who said his flight back home would suffer from delays too.

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