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Transport / Airline chief’s ‘intense frustration’ at passenger assistance legislation

THE CHIEF executive of Loganair has expressed his “intense frustration” at a “well meaning” piece of EU legislation on passenger assistance which he says is having the opposite effect of what was intended.

Jonathan Hinkles said the situation relates to airlines having no choice on which company is responsible for providing assistance at mainland airports for customers with reduced mobility.

It comes after airport handling agent Menzies Aviation recently apologised to a Shetland family for what they said was a “humiliating” experience at Glasgow Airport.

It resulted in their six-year-old son having to be carried off a Loganair plane down the steps in his wheelchair because a pre-booked ‘ambi-lift’ – just metres away – could not be used.

The issue of passenger assistance was raised at Tuesday’s meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum by chair Councillor Moraig Lyall.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles. Photo: Shetland News

She questioned if an airline like Loganair might get placed at the bottom of the pile when it came to accessing assistance.

Hinkles explained that around 15 years airlines were able to contract whichever assistance company they wanted to look after passengers getting on and off planes.

He told the meeting that two or three companies were usually available.

However one airline, “which shall remain nameless”, started charging customers for the assistance.

This then led to a concerned EU bringing in legislation saying airports were now responsible for providing assistance to customers, through a single contractor.

Hinkles said this EU law is now UK law.

“So we, by law […] have got absolutely no choice which company provides that assistance to our aircraft,” he said.

“We would love to be in a position where we’ve got more control over that.”

Hinkles added that it is a “source of intense frustration” for Loganair, particularly when airports are busy.

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He said there can be cases where passengers could be waiting 20 minutes for assistance, causing delays to flights.

Hinkles added that Loganair continues to make representation on the matter, but its power is limited given it is not its contract to give or takeaway.

“As an industry, it’s an area which is just a well meaning piece of EU legislation that’s just completely had the opposite effect to what it should have done for customers,” he said, adding that there was no sign of the UK changing it.

Lyall said highlighted that it was important for every passenger to receive good customer service when flying.

Hinkles added that there was a somewhat more positive picture at Sumburgh Airport.

He said Loganair had worked with operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) on introducing boarding ramps at Sumburgh, which he says has made a “huge difference”.

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