TROUBLED airline Loganair has provoked a furious response from campaigners after announcing a 1.3 per cent increase in airfares in the wake of a sharp decline in reliability over the past 12 months.
A week after announcing a 25 per cent rise in profits, the airline confirmed on Wednesday that prices had gone up by 1.3 per cent, which it said was 0.7 per cent lower than the average increase over the past eight years.
But Scott Preston, who has spearheaded a 15,000-strong campaign to improve the standard of air services to and from the Scottish mainland, described the latest move as a “kick in the teeth”.
A statement issued on the airline’s behalf read: “Loganair reviews fare levels on the 1st of January each year. This year Loganair’s net fares have increased by 1.3 per cent across the network.
“This is 0.7 per cent lower than the two per cent average increase over the previous eight years.”
Last year saw the reliability of Loganair’s services plummet to 77 per cent, with nearly one in four flights in 2015 delayed by 15 minutes or more.
Loganair’s PR company refused Shetland News’ request for an interview with the airline’s new operations director Maurice Boyle, who was appointed to the role in early November.
Preston responded: “Loganair confirming an increase in prices is a disgraceful action that represents a true kick in the teeth to both the campaign and the islanders who have consistently supported them through their most unreliable and unfavourable period to date.
“That they would do this on the back of increasing profits and the worst record of reliability in their history demonstrates how very little they care about what islanders throughout Scotland think and how little they value our custom.”
Isles MSP Tavish Scott pointed out that fuel prices had tumbled massively in the past year or so.
“Aviation fuel over the last 12 months must have fallen considerably given the falls in crude oil prices,” he said, “and it would have been good to see those savings passed on to customers rather than the fare increase that the company is announcing.”
Shetland’s Conservative candidate for May’s Scottish election Cameron Smith added that Loganair’s decision to bump up fares was “astonishing”.
“I recognise Loganair have identified a need for investment in the operations side of the airline, but I do not see that islanders themselves should be footing the bill, particularly given Loganair’s recent rise in profits and the lack of any alternative air travel option,” he said.
On Monday, Scottish transport minister Derek Mackay met with representatives of Loganair to seek assurances over the reliability of Highlands and Islands air services.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said Mackay then updated MSPs following the discussion: “Loganair has embarked on a significant programme of improvements, including engineering support, and pledged to make significant investment in new planes and the existing fleet.
“We hope passengers will start to see the benefit of this investment as soon as possible.”
The spokesman added that the three islands councils were carrying out a scoping study to examine the reliability and affordability of island air services.
“This will help inform HIAL’s consideration of how air services between the mainland and island communities can best be designed and developed for the future. We await the outcome of this work before any decisions about potential funding support can be considered.”
Pilots union BALPA expressed serious concerns about the performance of Loganair’s maintenance department in the autumn.
Asked whether pilots were now satisfied that matters were improving, a spokeswoman responded: “BALPA continues to work with Loganair and is looking forward to discussing a range of matters at upcoming meetings.”
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