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Transport / We need to do better, Loganair boss admits

Jonathan Hinkles said the airline is focused on getting things back on track after a tough April

Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles.

THE CHIEF executive of Loganair has written an open letter to Shetland passengers following criticism of the airline’s reliability and the cost of tickets.

Jonathan Hinkles admitted the airline’s “on-time performance” for flights to and from Shetland in April was “simply not good enough”.

He said Covid absence and delays in its aircraft maintenance programme were to blame.

Hinkles added that “our focus on getting service levels back to where they need to be is absolute”.

Local passengers have complained about Loganair’s reliability in recent months – leading to the formation of a Facebook group in which people are encouraged to tell their tales of cancellations and delays.

And cost of tickets in busy periods was brought in sharp focus recently when a family’s return trip from Glasgow to Sumburgh in the summer was costed at more than £1,000.

Hinkles said after making it through the challenges of the Covid pandemic, Loganair now needs 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,” he continued.

“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.”

Hinkles said the airline is also conscious of the discussion around fares.

He reiterated that the airline does not receive any subsidies because it offers “lifeline” services.

“If no-one flies with us, we have no income,” Hinkles continued.

“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.”

Hinkles added that Loganair continues 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”.

The airline chief added that Loganair has welcomed 73 new staff members in four months, with more to join soon.

It directly employs 180 people in the Highlands and Islands, he said, adding that the airline has offered payments to staff to help with the cost of living crisis.

Hinkles added: “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.”

The full letter can be read here.