SNP - Tom Wills

Airline unhappy with Aberdeen Airport facilities

Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles.

LOGANAIR says it is “really unhappy” with the facilities it receives at Aberdeen Airport and is “on the warpath” seeking an improvement in the seating areas provided for travellers.

The airline’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles told Wednesday’s meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum that Loganair was working with politicians to persuade the airport to offer improvements.

“I’m not happy with the facilities that we get at Aberdeen Airport at all,” he said. “You go out of the glitzy bit of the terminal and get stuffed at the end of a draughty corridor. It is not what you as customers are paying for.

“Together with MSPs for both Orkney and Shetland we are on the warpath for upgrading facilities in terms of better seating areas.”

He also said the airport needed to stop “trying to board two flights through one gate at once” because that “never ends well”.

Hinkles said the airline was still getting back on an even keel following a “tremendously damaging” battle with Flybe on routes in and out of Shetland last autumn.

He said Loganair had chalked up losses in excess of £6 million and, while Flybe had not declared how much it had lost, he would be “amazed if their figure was lower – it’s probably higher”.

Hinkles also acknowledged punctuality was down in December, January and February on the corresponding period 12 months earlier following a prolonged spell of bad winter weather.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging winter, probably one of the worst I can remember in quite a number of years,” he said. “Both storms, high winds and everything else, and that later turning to pretty significant levels of snow and ice.”

He referred to scenes at Glasgow Airport at the end of February, when he and other members of the management team were out helping the rest of the crew “literally digging planes out of snowdrifts for a couple of days”.

Technical issues during that time have usually been “directly related” to weather conditions, such as problems with de-icing machines breaking down, and he said captains and crews had “done a sterling job”, while he also credited airport operator HIAL for keeping Sumburgh open throughout the winter.

He recognised there were problems for passengers seeking to change bookings in late February because only two out of six call centre staff were physically able to make it into work due to the snow.

Work has begun on developing the option for people to be able to change their bookings online in the event of bad weather.

Various other changes are afoot, Hinkles said. It has changed its handling company at Manchester and is now looking at a “more prominent Loganair presence” at Scottish airports, either by employing staff directly or through a different agent.

New through-ticketing arrangements with Air France and KLM have gone live, while Loganair is working on connections with Easyjet. There is also “a willingness there to do things between Flybe and Loganair”, though that is currently being held back as Flybe is changing its booking system.

Hinkles has been open since Flybe withdrew from the route in January that fares would not remain as low as they were during the period of competition.

But he said the “fare ladder” was being adjusted so that, once the cheapest seats are sold, flight prices do not increase at such a steep rate thanks to the addition of two extra mid-range fare levels.

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