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Transport / Loganair would look to reintroduce suspended flights early if HIAL industrial action ends

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

LOGANAIR would look to reintroduce flights between Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Inverness earlier than anticipated if industrial action at Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) is called off, a meeting has heard.

Loganair chief commercial officer Luke Lovegrove also told the Shetland External Transport Forum on Wednesday that the decision to temporarily suspend flights between some HIAL airports was informed by “past lessons”.

Last week the airline revealed it would suspend some flights between HIAL airports for more than a month as a result of work to rule industrial action due to begin in mid-March.

This included flights between Sumburgh and Kirkwall/Inverness, but not the Shetland flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow as these airports are not part of the HIAL network.

The suspension, which is affecting a few thousand passengers, will take effect from Friday 17 March and will initially run until 30 April.

Loganair said this was because work to rule action from Prospect members – which includes not working overtime and the withdrawal of goodwill – could cumulatively affect the ability for flights between HIAL airports to run to schedule.

The decision was met with a mixed reaction, with one MSP saying it was a “complete over-reaction”.

Industrial action causes Loganair to temporarily suspend Sumburgh/Kirkwall/Inverness service

Lovegrove said the airline made the decision to ensure that passengers did not have their flights disrupted on the day of travel.

“We felt that from past lessons, that it was a lot safer to advise customers in advance so they could make better travel plans, especially people that needed to get to medical appointments,” he said.

He also confirmed that if there is a positive resolution to the industrial action in the near future Loganair would look to reintroduce flights on the affected routes before the start of May.

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This would not be immediate, however, as time would be needed for people to rebook.

On Monday HIAL – which is owned by the Scottish Government – confirmed that a business case has been prepared regarding a new pay offer to staff.

Strikes are also being undertaken by Prospect members this month but unlike previous action it will not close Sumburgh Airport to flights.

Meanwhile Lovegrove also conceded that 2022 was “not a stellar performance” for Loganair.

He said 4,799 flights operated via Sumburgh Airport during the year, and there had been 179 cancellations. A total of 70 of these were for reasons within Loganair’s control.

But Lovegrove said the airline is now witnessing the “green shoots of improvement” with performance and passenger numbers.

“We are hopeful that in 2023 we will get back on track, and back to the reputation that we used to have,” he said.

Lovegrove added that issues with resourcing in airports elsewhere was one factor behind the performance in 2022.

The meeting heard Loganair will continue with two daily flights between Sumburgh and Edinburgh this summer. It used to be three, but it will only return to that number if there is demand.

Lukegrove said he started work in Loganair last year, with a particular remit to improve customer care.

A Facebook group remains active to allow passengers to discuss delays and cancellations. It comes after Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles conceded last May that the airline’s performance had not been good enough.

Meanwhile Lovegrove said the potential sale of Loganair is “going to plan”.

Last year it was announced that the sole owners of the company, brothers Stephen and Peter Bond, had decided to put the airline on the market.

The UK’s largest regional airline, which is based at Glasgow and employs around 840 staff, provides lifeline services to Scottish island communities, including Shetland.

Lovegrove said with Loganair trading profitably, the company remains an attractive proposition for potential buyers.

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