Loganair has this morning (Wednesday 18 May) announced radical revisions to island air services as they struggle to maintain business during the Coronavirus epidemic.
The changes will begin to be implemented next week and will last until at least the end of May. During April and May there will be:
- No service between Stornoway and Edinburgh (until at least 31 May)
- Reduced service between Stornoway and Glasgow
There will be no change at Barra airport, which will continue to receive its scheduled two flights per day.
Benbecula and Stornoway will share two Glasgow flights per day on a circular basis. There will also be two daily Saab 340 flights between Stornoway and Inverness.
Passengers booked to fly on the services which have been cut have received emails notifying them of a new timetable, with the option to re-book if they wish via www.loganair.co.uk.
Onward flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness to UK destinations including Birmingham, Exeter and Manchester are also being reduced or suspended, and international routes including to Norway and Denmark have already been suspended, with routes to Ireland suspended from Monday (23 March).
It is expected that a quarter of Loganair’s fleet of 40 aircraft will be put into temporary storage as a result of the schedule reductions.
In this morning’s statement, the airline said that forward bookings continue to fall dramatically, leading to an overall reduction of over half of the Loganair flying programme for April and May.
Chief Executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “We have now seen forward bookings fall by around 75% versus their usual levels. From the end of next week, we will be implementing an emergency timetable, which will reduce our operations from around 214 to 95 scheduled flights each weekday – a cut of 55%. We expect this to be a temporary reduction and we are implementing this until the end of May but may have to extend that timescale as the situation continues to develop.”
“Customers booked on flights up to the end of May can change their reservation without a change fee to travel on a future date. However, if future flights are more expensive, the difference in fare will be payable. Where services are completely suspended a full refund will be applicable.”
“I would strongly advise our affected customers to manage their booking through our website as we are experiencing exceptionally high call volumes into our call centre”.
“Importantly, we will maintain lifeline services to the island communities we serve but will be forced to do so with reduced frequency.”
“The situation is incredibly serious and alongside the obvious health and safety implications, puts the future of the entire aviation industry in jeopardy. With this in mind, we have joined with other UK carriers to seek emergency measures from the Government to support all airlines in the sector.”
Hinkles revealed that Loganair staff have been asked to consider a series of measures aimed at protecting employment levels – including reducing working hours by 20% and accepting a 20% reduction in salary as a result or taking a period of unpaid leave.
He said: “We are working hard to avoid redundancies and lay-offs as have already been seen at major international airlines and as are likely to follow at several UK airlines in the coming days.”
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan commented:“It is clear that the present COVID-19 crisis presents an existential threat to much of the aviation industry.
“Flights to the Western Isles are genuinely lifeline services and we rely on them for a number of essential deliveries, such as medical supplies. It is absolutely vital that some form of service remains in place through the coming months.