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Letters / An open letter to Shetland passengers

After making it through the challenges of the pandemic, we now need to look to the future. It isn’t an easy transition though – news headlines are full of airports and airlines facing big challenges, and Loganair isn’t immune from that.

We know that April has been a difficult month for our Shetland customers, and we haven’t delivered the services that you need. On-time performance has been poor; high levels of Covid absence amongst our staff and that of our airport and service partners coupled to delays in our aircraft maintenance programme have really impacted our ability to provide the normal level of resilience which underpins our operation.

Overall, we did still manage to fly the vast majority of our passengers to their destinations, flying 99 per cent of our planned services to and from Shetland between January and March, and 97 per cent in April. However, our on-time performance has suffered, dropping from an average of 80 per cent in January-March to 61 per cent in April. We know this is simply not good enough.

Loganair’s 60 years of service to communities across Scotland has been forged through delivering for our customers through thick and thin. Today, our focus on getting service levels back to where they need to be is absolute.

Early indications are that we are making good progress to restore our strong track record – 89 per cent of flights were on time in the Covid years 2020/21 and 2019, we achieved 87 per cent. Those kinds of industry-leading levels are where we strive to be today – and we’re working hard to get there.

We’re also conscious of the ever-present discussion around airfares and ticket prices. There’s a perception that because we offer ‘lifeline’ services we must benefit from subsidies along similar lines to ferries – but the truth is we don’t. If no-one flies with us, we have no income. Loganair is a business, and like any other business we need to balance the books.

We must make money from busy flights to be able to maintain services across 52 weeks of the year – so making a profit on a busy flight on a Friday in May goes towards making sure there’s still a service on a quiet (and loss-making) Tuesday in February. If we didn’t do this, there simply wouldn’t be year-round services on many of the routes we fly, and communities dependent on our air services would really see the impact in the shoulder and winter seasons.

We offer a range of fares and – just as with any other airline – booking as early as you can is always advisable to get the best fares. We continue to be the only major UK airline that offers a luggage allowance in all its fares and we offer compassionate fares, student fares, child discounts, affordable options to take cats and dogs on our flights – a host of things that recognise the part we play in island life.

Being a sustainable business is also vital to supporting jobs. We’ve welcomed 73 new team members to Loganair in four months across a broad range of roles ranging from our Customer Help Centre and our hangars to our flightdecks – with more soon to join.

In all, Loganair directly employs 180 people in the Highlands and Islands – another way in which we support the communities that support us.

To demonstrate just how important our team members are to the service we provide, we’ve completed two-year pay deals with every employee group, offering an immediate payment to help with the cost-of-living challenge and a guaranteed minimum increase over each of the next two years.

Last week, we took delivery of our newest aircraft – our fourth 72-seat ATR72 turboprop, which is the world’s most environmentally efficient regional aircraft. This continues the programme of investment to phase out older aircraft from our fleet and ensure our services are fit for the future.

There’s a huge amount of work ongoing right across Loganair, and recent days have proved that the road out of the pandemic is certainly proving tougher than the one-way street in.

Yet the whole Loganair team is committed to delivering the service that we offer to our customers, and I’ve every confidence that this will very quickly be back at the levels both you and I would expect.

Jonathan Hinkles
Loganair chief executive