CAB - 7 Oct 2020 - 10 Oct 2020 - Advice

Transport / Loganair bookings remain slow after lockdown

Chief executive Jonathan Hinkles confirms backlog of refund requests is now cleared

Loganair's new ATR 42-500 aircraft at Sumburgh. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

LOGANAIR bookings for flights to and from Shetland at the moment are down by around 60 per cent compared to last year, according to chief executive Jonathan Hinkles.

The airline boss gave the update at a meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum on Wednesday.

Hinkles, however, confirmed that there are no plans to alter the price of tickets going into the winter.

He also said that bookings to Aberdeen fell by one third when a local lockdown was imposed in the city earlier this summer.

Hinkles said rebuilding confidence in flying following lockdown is a major factor for the aviation sector.

He said the pandemic been an extremely tough time for Loganair “but we are confident we can get through it”.

Bookings fell to essentially zero during April and May, Hinkles said, although essential travel was still running.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles. Photo: Shetland News

In early July bookings began to build back up but the rate of recovery has been variable, Hinkles said.

In July bookings were 82 per cent down compared to last year – 2,800 compared to 15,800.

This month, he said, bookings have been 59 per cent less than the same period in 2019.

Hinkles also confirmed the backlog of customer refund requests have now been cleared.

The airline had faced some criticism over the time it took for refunds to be processed, but Hinkles said the manual process was made more challenging by Covid restrictions.

This included being unable to deal with customers’ card details when working from home.

The usual number of refund requests Loganair would deal with, Hinkles said, would be 40 or 50 a week – but around 40,000 were submitted during the pandemic.

There was also an issue with some travel companies providing refunds to customers, with around 400 to 500 cases still outstanding.

Hinkles said some of the less reputable travel companies can add up to £90 to the price of a return Loganair flight when customers book through their website.

But the customer service can be “simply non-existent” when it comes to refunds in situations like lockdown, he said.

In some instances Loganair has refunded the travel company, but it has not yet passed it onto the customer.

Hinkles added that 50 staff will go on a company equivalent of the furlough scheme over the winter in anticipation of reduced demand for flights.

All staff will also undergo a salary reduction over the winter.

Nearly 70 of Loganair’s 852 staff are facing redundancy but none of them relate to Shetland.

Without the company equivalent of the furlough scheme, Hinkles said over 100 staff would have been looking at being made redundant.

VisitScotland’s Steve Mathieson asked Hinkles if prices of flights would be affected over the winter, but the airline boss said there were no plans to.

“We have not made any changes and I’m not expecting to,” he said.

Despite bookings remaining slow, Hinkles added that there was some pick-up in the number of tourists using Loganair services.

“We are seeing that across most of our markets, that there’s some recovery in what I would call non-essential travel.”

Hinkles added that there has been an “excellent level of compliance” with the requirement to wear face coverings on flights.

“The customer acceptance and compliance with that on Loganair flights has been very good indeed,” he said.