A new UK regional airline force is being created through an alliance between Flybe and Eastern Airways, Travel Weekly UK and other trade publications reported today (Tuesday June 6).
And this will mean former partners Flybe and Loganair going head-to head on the Stornoway to Glasgow route.
A new five-year franchise deal will see Humberside airport-based Eastern operate its scheduled route network under the Flybe brand. Eastern already flies between Aberdeen and Stornoway.
The new deal follows the spilt between Loganair and Flybe announced last November and due to take effect from the end of August.
At the time Flybe said the split followed "a failure to agree future operational standards and commercial arrangements". Executive chairman Simon Laffin said then: "Scotland is very important to Flybe, and we want to ensure that we serve our customers there to the highest standards, whilst delivering a return to our shareholders. We shall announce our plans on continuing to serve Scotland in due course. In the meantime our customers can travel and book tickets exactly as before, while any new arrangements will be put in place from September 2017 onwards."
However, the BBC quoted Loganair today as being shocked by the move. Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said: "We are extremely disappointed and surprised at this announcement.
"We have been negotiating in good faith with senior Flybe staff about a continuing codeshare relationship to ensure that customers can access ongoing connections from all of Loganair's extensive Highlands and Islands network to the rest of the UK.
"Flybe's decision means it will no longer be possible to book many of these connecting flights in a single booking, adding cost and complexity for the customer.
"Flybe is intent on challenging us head-to-head on a few of our traditional and established routes that make up our extensive network in Scotland, but we are 'Scotland's Airline', and I can promise them that we are up for the fight.
"We've invested a huge amount in the infrastructure - engineers, ground handling, support staff - to provide our Highlands and Islands services and we're here to stay."
Travel Weekly UK said a joint revenue and risk-sharing agreement will cover four Eastern aircraft. E astern Airways will operate some of these routes, including Aberdeen-Sumburgh, Glasgow-Sumburgh, Edinburgh-Sumburgh, Glasgow-Manchester, Aberdeen-Kirkwall, and Glasgow-Stornoway under the Flybe franchise agreement from September 1.
The Eastern scheduled network will also to be available to book on Flybe.com September 1, including routes between Aberdeen, Norwich, Teesside, Newcastle, Southampton, Leeds, Cardiff and Paris
The aim is for contracts to be finalised and signed within the next few weeks. However, tickets will go on sale immediately and flights will start operating under the new arrangements from September.
Eastern operates scheduled domestic and short haul international services and private charter services, with hubs at Aberdeen, Norwich, Teesside, Newcastle, Southampton, Leeds, Cardiff and Paris.
Flybe chief executive, Christine Ourmieres-Widener, said: “This alliance with Eastern Airways is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the Flybe network.
“We already operate flights at a number of common airports and this will enable passengers to connect to a greater number of destinations, across the UK and into Europe, all booked through Flybe.com.
“Eastern will operate routes from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester to offer an enhanced service to passengers based in Scotland and travelling to Scotland.
“Combined with our flights to Heathrow from Edinburgh and Aberdeen, this demonstrates our strong commitment to serving Scotland."
Eastern Airways chief executive, Richard Lake, said: “This alliance will benefit both airlines as not only does it strengthen Flybe’s network, but broadens our distribution and enhances connection opportunities for our customers through its global airline association.
“We have specialised in fixed-wing flying in the oil and gas market for many years and our expertise will provide a greater opportunity to further develop offshore connectivity to Flybe’s network.”