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Transport / New Loganair chief in contact with NHS chairs after concerns raised over reliability

A Loganair ATR42 aircraft arriving at Sumburgh. Photo: Shetland News

THE NEW chief executive of Loganair says he has already made contact with health officials after concern was raised by a couple of island NHS board chairs about the reliability of the airline when flying patients to the mainland.

The issue was brought at a meeting of Scotland’s health board chairs in late January by NHS Shetland chair Gary Robinson and the Western Isles’ Gillian McCannon.

New Loganair chief Luke Farajallah – who took up his post a few weeks ago – said in response that he is “working on it immediately” and is “completely on the side of the NHS”.

Minutes from the meeting said there was a concern around the “impact on patients and visiting consultants from the short term cancellation of flights due to technical and adverse weather” and that a discussion with Loganair would be welcomed.

Patients from Shetland travelling to the mainland for appointments or treatment usually take flights.

The minutes added: “The Cabinet Secretary [Michael Matheson, health secretary at the time] agreed this discussion should be taken forward by officials to seek assurance Loganair is able to support the NHS service delivery with an appropriate flight schedule.”

An action listed was for government officials to seek assurance through a “tripartite conversation that Loganair is able to support the NHS service delivery with an appropriate flight schedule”.

At a meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum earlier this month Loganair chief commercial officer Luke Lovegrove admitted the airline was “not where we would like to be” when it came to figures for on-time performance in 2023.

As a result he said the airline is not looking to add any additional services in the meantime and instead will be focusing on improving its resilience and therefore its performance.

Loganair CEO Luke Farajallah. Photo: Loganair

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Speaking this week in interviews with local media, new Loganair chief executive Luke Farajallah told Shetland News that he has already initiated contact with health chairs and officials on the matter.

He reiterated that his emphasis is on stabilising Loganair’s service.

“It’s not lost on me that someone who is travelling from a remote community to the mainland who perhaps has some serious health issues, they should be focused on themselves and on their families – not on whether the airline they’ve chosen to fly with can or cannot deliver its basic product,” he said.

“At the heart of what I do is run an airline, and if the airline isn’t able to deliver its service then I’ve fallen short, and it’s my personal responsibility.

“You can be 100 per cent certain that I hear what they’re saying, I’ll engage with the communities, I’m completely on the side of the NHS and I’m ruthlessly laser-focused on stabilising this operation and bringing the concern about Loganair way down the list for people who should and rightly have other things on their mind.

“We want to make their journey to recovery faster and smoother and not create more stress.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Island health boards have contingencies in place in case of disruption to air services caused by bad weather or other issues, however, it is important to note that the operation of Loganair services is a matter for the airline.

“The Scottish Government has made contact with the airline to pass on comments from the chairs meeting made with regard to health services in Shetland, and will keep a close eye on developments.”

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