NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has expressed his hope that the UK Government will appreciate the significance of delivering lifeline services when it meets with Loganair management to discuss further support to the aviation industry.
Carmichael was reacting to comments from Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles on BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning which confirmed that the regional airline would be discussing government support from the Treasury in the next few days.
Speaking on the Today programme, Hinkles said: “I do think like the vast majority of UK airlines we will be going back to take up that invite for further conversation with Treasury in the coming days because we have to.”
Speaking to Shetland News he added: “As a provider of lifeline air services, Loganair is unlike other many airlines in that we must continue to fly the lifeline routes on which our customers depend.
“It’s critical that we do so, and we believe we are well placed to be able to maintain those services throughout the current crisis. This position means we are unable to suspend our operations and furlough all our employees as other airlines have.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous effect on all UK airlines. The government has made it clear that it is open to specific requests for support from individual airlines and whilst Loganair has not yet taken up this invite as we explore all paths, we expect to join other UK airlines in doing so in the coming days given the unique position in which we find ourselves.”
The company has already secured a 100 per cent business rate relief from the Scottish Government over the next year as part of measures to support the aviation industry.
Loganair is running a skeleton service of essential flights over coming weeks and months as ticket sales dropped off dramatically due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this month Loganair took on 16 additional routes from regional carrier FlyBe, which collapsed on 5 March.
Meanwhile, easyJet has announced that it will be grounding its entire fleet for at least two months in response to
the collapse of air travel, while other major carriers have said that they would eventually need help from the state to survive.
Carmichael said: “The government needs to give serious consideration to community needs as it works with airlines in need of support. Cutting lifeline services would be a disaster for the isles as we recover from this crisis, risking long term harm to prosperity. We must ensure that these connections are protected.
“The Treasury demonstrated recently that they understood the importance of maintaining transport infrastructure when they took Northern Rail into public ownership.
“I hope that they understand that these lifeline services are as important to island communities as train services are to towns in the north of England.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart added: “The government must understand what a lifeline service means to a community like Shetland. The airline industry is not a one size fits all.
“A reliable and fit for purpose air service is absolutely essential for medical appointments, for businesses, for young people studying at university and a whole host other essential travel; all travel that will be needed once this crisis is over.”
Sumburgh Airport’s opening times, meanwhile, have been cut to allow the skeleton service to operate.
It will be open from 8am to 3.45pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm on Saturdays and 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Sundays.
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