Transport / Four in ten inter-island flights cancelled in 2018/19

Councillor pays tribute to transport staff working in ‘challenging conditions’

An islander aircraft in front of the hangar at Tingwall Airport. Photo: SIC
An islander aircraft in front of the hangar at Tingwall Airport. Photo: SIC

OVER 40 per cent of scheduled inter-island flights in Shetland during the last financial year were cancelled due to the weather, no passengers or technical issues.

A total of 571 flights connecting Tingwall with Fair Isle, Foula and Papa Stour fell foul of the elements in 2018/19.

Around 13 per cent of flights – 286 – were also shelved due to there being no passengers.


Twenty eight flights succumbed to technical problems, with 41.3 per cent of flights overall cancelled.

The figures were included as part of an annual summary presented to members of Shetland’s regional transport partnership on Thursday.

The inter-island flights are operated by Airtask on behalf of Shetland Islands Council.

There were also 536 cancellations on the internal ferry service in 2018/19, which represented an improvement on the 721 call-offs in 2017/18.

The Yell ferry Dagalien. Photo: SIC

The greatest number came on the Yell ferry Dagalien (141), while her sister ship Daggri was called off 85 times.

The Fair Isle ferry Good Shepherd, vital for links to the remote island, had 52 cancelled sailings.


No cancellations were reported on Bluemull Sound’s Geira or the Papa Stour ferry Snolda.

The report noted, however, that the number of cancelled scheduled sailings can be compensated to a degree by additional trips using other vessels.

Figures also showed that the internal ferries, which are operated by the council, used 4.5 million litres of fuel in 2018/19.

The inter-island air services used 47,500 litres.

The cost of running the ferry service was £15.512 million – but the income was only just over £7 million.

In 2018/19 a total of 762,671 journeys were made on the ferries, with vehicles taken on board 374,665 times.


On the buses 440,000 journeys were made on the public network and 395,000 on the school service. The gross cost of public bus services was £2.624 million, with fare income sitting at £613,000.

Nearly 3,850 tickets were sold on the internal flights during the year.

ZetTrans chairman councillor Ryan Thomson paid tribute to the staff – especially in air services – who operate in challenging weather conditions.

“I think the figures around air travel show the challenges we face when delivering essential lifeline services to the public who depend and require a reliable service, particularly when it comes to weather conditions which can be a challenge all year round,” he said.

“The operators of the internal air service do a sterling job in challenging conditions.

“The amount of fuel the council uses to deliver lifeline services comes as no surprise – half of all carbon emissions created by council services can be attributed to transport.

“The local authority has challenges ahead on how to become carbon neutral with our ageing vessels. Fixed links is clearly the obvious solution towards that and discussions remain ongoing between ZetTrans and Transport Scotland around Shetlands needs out of the STPR2 [Strategic Transport Projects Review 2] process.”