THE RETURN of industrial action by air traffic controllers in the Highlands and Islands at the weekend saw a Shetland-bound flight cancelled because a request to extend Sumburgh Airport’s opening hours was refused.
It meant that 45 passengers on the delayed Loganair LM437 flight were stuck in Glasgow overnight on Saturday.
Work to rule industrial action from air traffic controllers employed by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) resumed on Saturday after a revised pay offer was rejected by members of the Prospect union.
The action includes not working beyond designated airport opening hours.
Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said fog on Saturday morning at Sumburgh led to all services being delayed, with the LM437 flight later in the day suffering a knock-on delay as a result.
“Due to air traffic control declining to extend Sumburgh Airport’s operating hours under the current industrial action, it was not possible to fly the Glasgow-Sumburgh service,” he said.
Sumburgh Airport closes early on Saturdays at 4.30pm.
The affected passengers were provided with overnight accommodation and meals by Loganair in Glasgow and the flight took place at the earliest opportunity on Sunday morning.
Hinkles added that another Loganair aircraft was diverted into Sumburgh on Saturday afternoon to ensure that the Sumburgh-Aberdeen flight, with 50 passengers on board, was able to take place before the airport’s closure.
“We regret the inconvenience caused to our customers but can only ask for their understanding that the situation was entirely beyond Loganair’s control, with a combination of weather delays and industrial action leading to this significant delay to the Glasgow-Sumburgh service,” he said.
Shetland News previously revealed that Loganair had added an extra £5 onto every ticket in the Highlands and Islands in an attempt to mitigate the “significant” financial impact the industrial action has had on the airline.
After HIAL’s revised pay offer – which is understood to have been an additional £10,000 paid over the next five years – was rejected, the government-owned company said on Friday that more talks are planned this week.
Managing director Inglis Lyon said it is “unfortunate that the industrial action has been reinstated during the peak holiday period and I would like to apologise in advance to our passengers, customers and local communities for the disruption this will inevitably cause”.
Lyon added that the latest offer was “made within the parameters of the Scottish public pay policy in a bid to resolve the dispute to the satisfaction of both parties”.
“We have encouraged Prospect to meet and discuss an alternative solution within the flexibilities afforded to the company. We remain committed to resolving this dispute and a meeting with Prospect will take place on Thursday 4 July,” he said.
Prospect argues that air traffic controllers in the Highlands and Islands and Dundee should have pay parity with controllers at Glasgow, Edinburgh and London airports.
Negotiating officer David Avery previously said: “Our members at HIAL undertake highly skilled roles, much in demand across the UK and Europe, but due to public sector pay restraint their pay has fallen significantly behind the rest of the industry.”
Air traffic controllers went on a one day strike in June, leading to number of airports in the region shutting including Sumburgh.