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Transport / Evening flight turns back as Sumburgh Airport would not stay open any longer

From Monday the evening flight from Aberdeen will be ‘de-linked’ from Manchester services – a repeated source of delays

A Loganair flight preparing to take off from Sumburgh Airport. Photo: Shetland News

A DELAYED Shetland-bound plane turned back mid-air after leaving Aberdeen last night (Thursday) as Sumburgh Airport would not be open upon landing.

The Loganair flight was already delayed by around three and a half hours when it took off from Aberdeen around 9.30pm due to issues in Manchester, where the plane flew from.

But passengers were told as they settled into their flight that they needed to turn back to Aberdeen because Sumburgh Airport was unable to stay open any longer. Hotel accommodation was provided for those on board.

Sumburgh Airport is listed as being open until 8pm for flights but extensions can be requested if there are delays. Operator HIAL said they could only grant permission to keep the building open until 10pm, and the plane in question would have landed after that.

When asked by Shetland News why the plane took off, a spokesperson for Loganair said the airline was hopeful of negotiating an extension to allow the plane to land, but “regrettably it was not possible”.

Loganair has also confirmed that from Monday (1 August) the evening Aberdeen-Sumburgh flight will be “de-linked” from Manchester services – meaning on-time performance will not be impacted by events in the English city’s airport.

It said it “sincerely apologises for the disruption caused to customers”.

Meanwhile the issue with the flight meant Thursday’s last scheduled trip out of Sumburgh Airport to Aberdeen did not take place as planned because it was waiting on the northbound plane.

However, Loganair said a flight to Edinburgh dropped in at Aberdeen, meaning the majority of passengers got to their destination.

Anyone not on this service was provided with accommodation and were rebooked on a flight the next day, while an extra northbound flight was laid on too this morning (Friday).

But on the flight which turned around were some passengers who were already stuck in Aberdeen after an evening flight to Sumburgh on Wednesday was cancelled following a technical fault.

Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL
Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL

One of those was Stephen Lamming, who was then rebooked onto the 6.30am flight from Aberdeen this morning (Friday) – which was due to depart some 36.5 hours after his original planned flight on Wednesday.

He said after Wednesday’s cancellation he was booked on Thursday’s evening flight because, as a single passenger, others took priority on earlier trips which were already busy.

While Lamming said he was happy to have others go earlier, it meant he lost a day at work at NHS Shetland and could also not be on call as planned for the estates team at the Gilbert Bain Hospital on Thursday evening.

He said Wednesday’s flight was due to take off at 6pm but was delayed by 45 minutes. As passengers boarded the aircraft they were told engineers needed to carry out repairs.

He said it was around half eight when they were told the flight north was cancelled.

“We make our way to the handling desk where we are informed the computers are down,” Lamming recalled.

“It takes approximately three hours to process all the passengers onto alternative flights. The first passengers being processed after two hours. Only seating available for priority passengers and only water offered. Lots of hospital appointments, elderly and young children.”

He said he arrived at a hotel in Aberdeen around about midnight, with “no food available”, and claimed while check-out was at 11am taxis were arranged for 3pm.

Lamming said on Thursday evening the flight was significantly delayed by issues in Newquay and Manchester, where the plane flew from.

After turning back the plane landed at Aberdeen Airport just after 10pm, with Lamming checking into a hotel for a second night in a row shortly after midnight.

A spokesperson for Loganair said on Friday morning that the “failure of one of our service partners at Manchester yesterday” lead to the late arrival of the Shetland-bound aircraft into Aberdeen.

“Loganair exhausted all options in trying to get customers home and attempted to operate the service to Sumburgh but regrettably, due to airport opening hours, was unable to land at the airport and had to turn back to Aberdeen,” it said.

“Accommodation was provided in Aberdeen and passengers will be put on an alternative flight today.

“From Monday 1 August, actions previously taken to de-link the evening Aberdeen-Sumburgh flight from the Manchester services come into effect.

“The afternoon and evening Aberdeen-Sumburgh flights will be operated by the same aircraft and its on-time performance will not be impacted by events in Manchester.

“Loganair sincerely apologises for the disruption caused to customers and we are liaising with service partners to prevent this happening again.”

A spokesperson for Sumburgh Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) said: “We confirmed to Loganair that we were able to extend Sumburgh airport’s opening time by two hours to allow the delayed flight from Aberdeen to land up until 10pm but we could not grant permission after that time.

“This information was communicated to the airline well in advance of the aircraft departing Aberdeen.

“We will always try to accommodate requests to extend landing times when it is possible to do so but this is not always achievable. It is regrettable that passengers were inconvenienced due to issues elsewhere in the aviation network.”

In June Loganair had to apologise after some passengers were forced to sleep in Sumburgh Airport after the last evening flight south was similarly cancelled.

This was because it could not find accommodation for some customers.

On that occasion there were also delays on the northbound flight caused by problems in Manchester.