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Transport / Loganair ‘moving in the right direction’, CEO says

‘We still have quite a way to go in getting services to where we all want them to be’, Jonathan Hinkles adds

Photo: Shetland News

LOGANAIR has published a further open letter to its Shetland passengers, outlining the improvements it has achieved following recent difficulties.

The letter, from the airline’s CEO Jonathan Hinkles, follows an open letter in May to provide an update on service levels and apologise to travellers whose flights had been delayed or cancelled.

However, it came the day after some passengers had to spend the night in Sumburgh Airport after their flight to Aberdeen was cancelled following and no other accommodation was available locally.

The flight was affected by delays on the inbound service which involved issues at Manchester.

In his latest letter the Loganair CEO said the number of Shetland flights operating on time increased to 69 per cent in May from 61 per cent in April and that the number of flights impacted by serious delay or cancellation has halved.

Despite the improvements, he acknowledged the airline has “quite a way to go” before it attains its desired service levels.

He said: “All this says that we still have quite a way to go in getting services to where we all want them to be, yet overall, we are moving in the right direction.

“Even so, we know that if you were on one of those nine disrupted flights or another service that didn’t go on time, the statistics don’t make it any easier.”

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles. Photo: Shetland News

The CEO said that unprecedented travel disruption across the UK was having a negative impact on Shetland services, citing how aircraft and crews are being significantly delayed by difficulties on the ground at airports including a lack of staff to help those requiring assistance to disembark.

In one instance, a two-hour delay at Manchester Airport delayed the same plane’s Aberdeen-Sumburgh flight that evening and caused a further three-hour delay on the next day’s Sumburgh flight because of the crew’s working hours.

Other issues include airports running out of fuel, air traffic control delays and general congestion at airports.

He added: “The whole system is running under severe pressure, and Loganair is one of six airlines directly engaging with the UK Government on how to fix these problems.

“Distant though they may seem, unless we completely disconnect Shetland from the wider UK air network – which we don’t believe is in anyone’s interests – we can’t isolate Loganair’s Sumburgh flights from the effect of these issues.”

Locally to Loganair, supply chain issues are delaying aircraft maintenance and reducing availability, and Covid is continuing to cause absences.

The winter aircraft overhaul programme for instance has taken two months longer than planned due to some major issues in timely receipt of essential spare parts, the airline boss added.

“Once complete, it will restore standby aircraft availability to improve resilience,” he said.

Hinkles concluded: “Our update today is therefore to report on a work-in-progress. If we had a magic wand to resolve all of the issues that our entire industry is facing, we’d have waved it long before now.

“Clearly there isn’t one, even though that won’t stop us working flat out to restore the levels of punctuality and reliability that everyone rightly expects of us. There are many things across the industry right now that we can’t fix, but we will continue to do everything we can to look after our customers.”