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Letters / Is Loganair a help or a hindrance to Shetland businesses and cultural life?

Greetings from Glaswegians virus-stuck in Belize (Central America).

We were so looking forward to the Shetland Folk Festival last weekend, and seeing both some of our good musician friends play, as well as staying over for a few extra days to travel the islands for the first time. We were sorry, but not surprised, when we got an email early on explaining that the festival had had to be cancelled.

The organisers immediately offered a full refund of our memberships, and after a quick email to our accommodation providers, Steve and Gillian of The Decca, gave a full refund without demur.

I thought Star Rent a Car might be more tricky but they immediately said there would be no charge. What is more they all seemed to understand and “hoped to see us next year”. So far, so great. Shetland gets five stars for generosity and common sense.

But that was all without the input (or lack of it) by Loganair. First they emailed saying our return flight would have to be two days later (and to Edinburgh), and then they said I could re-book the flight within six months of the original flights. I then wrote on the 29 March saying my intention was to attend the festival and I wanted a refund.

Other than a standard/automated reply I heard nothing more so wrote again on 15 April. I have still not had a reply, or even confirmation that the flights are cancelled.

As I wrote in my letter of complaint:

“It seems wrong that everyone who is helping put Shetland on the tourist map loses out in a situation like this other than Loganair. Indeed it could be argued that, in relation to these flights, you are making EXTRA profit out of the crisis.

“Assuming 40 customers, you collected about £10,000, most of which you will not have to allocate to future flights, and you now do not have the costs of taking a plane to and from Shetland.

“I know that this crisis is a bad time for the airline industry, and it is likely to get worse before it improves. But treating customers so poorly is not likely to encourage them to fly with you when the time comes again to travel. Certainly where people have other options, like the ferry, (who are offering refunds) they are more likely to opt for that route another time.

“You could show at least some support for the Shetland community and the Folk Festival by extending the period we can travel to a year. At least then we, and most of the other travellers on your flights in that 2-3 day window would be able to go to the festival next year. If you do not do this people will either cut their cloth accordingly and not go to the festival next year, choosing a mainland one instead, or they will go by an alternative route.”

I do feel that the business and arts community in Shetland should join together, with politicians and councillors to try to get Loganair to improve their customer service.

Having arranged many community concerts over the years on the mainland I know how tricky it can be to build and retain loyal audiences. The festival has built a formidable reputation as a ‘must attend’ event. It is a shame if it has to struggle against the very companies who should be helping.

All the same – hoping to see you next year. But maybe we would be wise to travel by ferry!?

Hoping life improves on the island and that life returns to some sort of “normality”.

Yours sincerely,
Mark and Linda Morpurgo

A spokesperson for Loganair said in response: “The impact of Covid-19 on the Loganair business has been extreme, and we have changed our policy as the crisis has evolved.

“We are now offering refunds to customers when we have cancelled a flight and cannot offer another on the same day and on the same route. This was not the case when Mr/s Morpurgo first actioned their claim.

“We have since written to the customer and confirmed their refund will be processed, albeit this will take some time due to the sheer volume of claims and our depleted workforce.”