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Coronavirus / Testing infrastructure for island flights in place, says Loganair boss

IMPLEMENTING a Covid-19 testing regime for all island flights would be relatively straightforward, according to Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles.

Speaking to Shetland News the airline boss said testing infrastructure and associated protocols was already in place at Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, and were ready to be used.

The Scottish Government has said it is considering whether testing at island entry points should be introduced after receiving representations from Orkney and Shetland parliamentarians.

The islands’ health board, however, issued a word of warning, saying a number of logistical questions needed to be answered before such testing could be seriously considered.

Health chief Michael Dickson, who heads the health boards in Orkney and in Shetland, is on record saying that island entry testing is “not as simple as some may portray”.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles. Photo: Shetland News

Hinkles said while he acknowledges Dickson’s concern, he nevertheless feels that most of the issues raised have already been dealt with.

“There are already testing centre established at Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports,” he said.

“Those were used by KLM, because all passengers heading into the Netherlands had to have a negative antigen test before they were allowed to board.”

KLM had to stop it services after the Scottish Government closed the country’s borders.

“From a practical point of view the hard work to establish this has already been done. All the testing is done before security and before you start mixing with other passengers at the boarding gate,” Hinkles said.

“The infrastructure is there, the testing protocols are in place including the issue as to what happens if somebody tests positive.

“The test is done at the earliest possible opportunity; in Edinburgh it is set up within the car parking area. It is the closest possible point that we can test before departure but without building risk into that process.”

The Loganair boss proposed that some of the money saved through the lower uptake from the Air Discount Scheme should be used by the Scottish Government to financially support the island-testing regime.

He said now was the right time “to have a serious look” at this. “From an airline’s point of view it would be fairly straightforward to implement the infrastructure,” he added.

“There has been broad consensus that this is something that merits very serious consideration, particularly from a point of view how to safely re-open the islands’ economy and giving people certainty that if they wish to plan and book travel in the summer they can do so.”