Eastern Airways and Flybe are at the centre of a new row over their twice-daily weekday service between Stornoway and Aberdeen.

There have been a barrage of complaints from users about the reliability of the service with would-be travellers stranded by last-minute cancellations.

Now the airline has told local MP Angus MacNeil that it plans to cut the service back to one a day in the summer anyway.

In March the company introduced two flights a day to Aberdeen, as well as flights on the weekend. This came shortly after their decision to withdraw from the Glasgow – Stornoway route and was warmly welcomed at the time by offshore workers.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan said this week:  “We are at the stage where Eastern Airways is risking reputational damage with its casual approach to frequent timetable changes, and the lack of meaningful engagement with service users and other stakeholders.

“Eastern Airways’ correspondence with my colleague Angus MacNeil MP attempts to suggest that insufficient passenger growth motivated this decision. However, fewer  passengers will use a service that is known to be unreliable. 

 “Island-based oil and gas workers are relying on a punctual air service to meet their needs. There have been far too many cancelled flights and the decision to revert back to one plane a weekday will mean many will have to spend more time on the road and less at home with their families.

 “I have urged the company to reverse this decision.”

Local Councillor Donald Crichton had already written to Eastern Airways asking them to improve their performance on the Stornoway to Aberdeen route and properly resource it so that flights aren't cancelled so frequently. 

Passengers have been subject to the frequent cancellation of flights - in one week alone, flights on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were pulled at short notice.

Writing to Eastern Airways General Manager for Operations, Roger Hage, Mr Crichton said: " The frequent cancellations are unacceptable and customers have been treated appallingly.  

“It is clear that Eastern Airways are fast losing the good will of the traveling public that has built up since the new timetable was introduced. It was well received with hopes that the route would grow and develop. But there is clearly an issue to be addressed with the increasing frequency of cancelled flights.

The Loch a Tuath Councillor on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar continued: " I have received a number of representations from people in my area about the unreliability of the service in recent times and how travel plans for offshore workers are jeopardised..

“Even well-booked flights are being cancelled leaving people scrambling to make other arrangements to get to their work.  This is a terrible way to treat customers who pay significant sums to travel."

And Isles MP Angus MacNeil also wrote to Eastern Airways and its franchise partner Flybe, after several constituents contacted him about the level of flight cancellations on the route which is a key service for local offshore workers.

In response, Eastern Airways accepted that ‘reliability has fallen somewhat short in recent months’ and stated that they intend to revert to the previous service of just one daily service on weekdays this summer. 

Mr MacNeil said: “This is a disappointing development and Eastern Airways and Flybe must ensure customers are kept informed about the proposed changes.

 “I have written again to Eastern Airways asking them to look and see if some days show a greater usage than others and whether they might consider maintaining two flights on some of the busier days of the week.”