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Competing airlines upbeat over future

LOGANAIR and Flybe have both expressed their confidence that they can operate profitably after going into direct competition on five air routes across the Highlands and Islands.

On Friday morning, Flybe’s chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widerner and Eastern Airways chief operations officer Tony Burgess hosted a business breakfast at Sumburgh Hotel to mark the start of the new partnership.

Meanwhile, in a different corner of the hotel, Loganair’s director of operations Maurice Boyle gave media interviews as part of the company’s whistlestop tour to thank its employees and island customers for their loyalty.

Flybe/Eastern Airways’ first passenger flight from Aberdeen touched down at Sumburgh just slightly behind schedule at 7.44am.

As of Friday, Flybe is offering daily flights between Sumburgh to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Kirkwall and Aberdeen as well as Glasgow and Stornoway. A sixth new route links Glasgow with Manchester up to four times a day.

Responding to unease about the tight schedule in which Flybe’s Embraer jet has to operate, Burgess said there was no reason why the schedule shouldn’t work.

“We [Eastern Airways] are no stranger to Shetland, we know the environment, the company has 30+ aircrafts, so if there are problems with the timetable we can easily substitute,” he said.

Burgess said that Shetland was a “huge marketplace” and predicted strong growth in the number of people flying in and out of the isles.

Ourmieres-Widerner said Flybe wanted to continue serving Shetland following the end of the Loganair/Flybe franchise because the route has been a lucrative one.

“Shetland was definitely our top priority,” she said.

“This is very positive for the market overall. In addition we will launch a new franchise agreement with Eastern Airways at the end of October, which means that we will be able to connect passenger seamlessly to the Flybe network and the Eastern Airways network.”

Boyle said that Loganair would come into its own after operating under the colours of other airlines (Flybe and before that British Airways) for more than two decades.

“For 24 years Loganair has been flying under the colour scheme of other partner airlines,” he said.

“Today (Friday) is our first day of going solo, so it really is a historic day for Loganair and for our customers as well.”

The company operates around 120 flights across the Highlands and Islands on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, Flybe has announced that it will soon be calling for people to nominate community heroes who have made an outstanding contribution to the local community.

The “Flybe community heroes” will receive VIP recognition, including an aircraft being named in their honour.

 Please also read our story from earlier today: http://www.shetnews.co.uk/news/15118-airlines-go-head-to-head