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Transport / HIAL apologises for disruption to flights as airport strike looms

Sumburgh Airport is one of 11 airports under HIAL's wing.
Sumburgh Airport.

THE OPERATOR of Sumburgh Airport has apologised for disruption to travel ahead of a one-day strike on Thursday which has seen Loganair cancel flights.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) managing director Inglis Lyon said it was “extremely disappointing” that the strike, from air traffic controllers across the Highlands and Islands, is taking place.

Airports in Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh will be closed to all but emergency flights on Thursday (29 July).

It is the result of frustration among staff, who are members of the Prospect union, over plans from HIAL to centralise air traffic control in Inverness.

Lyon said on Tuesday: “We apologise for the inconvenience this day of strike action will cause.

“The disruption will impact our passengers, airline partners and the communities we serve at a crucial time in the recovery from the effects the Covid pandemic.

“It is extremely disappointing that strike action is going ahead despite months of work with Prospect to agree a number of policies to support our colleagues’ transition to our air traffic management programme.

“We are still in talks with the union on a commuting policy and appeal to Prospect to conclude those discussions before considering any further escalation of industrial action.”

Prospect negotiator David Avery previously said that “HIAL’s plan will remove high value skilled jobs from economies that can ill-afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities”.

Meanwhile a new inquiry has been launched around the impact of Covid-19 on Scottish airports.

MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee will explore issues around the “the airports themselves, the impacts of Covid-19, and local community and environmental concerns”.

In the year of Glasgow based UN climate change conference COP26, the committee is also keen to explore the impact environmental policies are having on airports, and in particular what schemes there are to reduce carbon footprints.

Scottish affairs committee chairman Pete Wishart said: “Airports in Scotland are a lifeline for many rural communities, and for people travelling to different parts of the UK and further afield.

“In a turbulent 18 months for airports with the Covid-19 pandemic, our committee is keen to explore what impact reduced numbers of flights have had on communities, and how this has impacted the local job market.”

The Westminster committee is inviting written submissions on the matter by 6 October.