THE IDEA of a discounted plane fare for family and friends of Fair Isle and Foula residents has been raised as discussions continue on how Shetland’s inter-island flight service could look in the future.
The full Shetland Islands Council agreed on Wednesday to progress its review of air services to a full business case, which would lead to the next air contract then going out to tender.
The same report needs to be approved by Shetland’s transport partnership ZetTrans on Thursday before it can progress.
The current one-year contract for delivering air services to Shetland’s islands – worth £933,504 and run by Airtask – is due to expire at the end of the financial year.
Councillors have already agreed to continue having Tingwall Aiport as the base for flights and, following consultation with communities, to withdraw services from Papa Stour and Skerries – although the latter has not had flights for some time.
This leaves only Fair Isle and Foula in the flight network.
There are a few options which would be taken forward to the full business case when it comes to flight frequency for the two islands, with weekend services among the proposals.
The exploration of a possible family and friends fare for Fair Isle and Foula received attention at Wednesday’s full council, with south mainland member Robbie McGregor effusive with praise for the idea.
“It will be of tremendous benefit to family and friends having to visit relatives in the islands,” he said.
Transport manager Michael Craigie said it can cost up to £300 for a family of four to fly to Fair Isle and back.
He explained that the fare could be an extension of the existing discount for islanders.
Craigie added that the eligibility criteria would need to be sorted, while it could operate in a similar way to NorthLink Ferries’ family and friends offer.
Environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said he was “very happy to see the potential inclusion” of a friends and family fare.
He admitted the costs of flying for relatives and friends can be “prohibitive”.
It was stressed, however, that the idea is only being explored at this stage.
South mainland councillor George Smith, meanwhile, reminded officers to do what they can to accommodate children who require flights to get to school.
He said that airplanes are the equivalent of a school bus for some young islanders.
Smith also noted that flights are “essential mechanisms for islanders to live their life to the full.”