SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has called on Loganair to find an alternative solution to their plan to temporarily suspend all flights between Inverness and the Western Isles.
On Friday, Loganair announced that due to ongoing industrial action by airport fire service and security staff at HIAL airports, they had taken the decision to suspend all Loganair flights from Stornoway and Benbecula to Inverness for at least six weeks, beginning on the 17th March.
Services from Inverness to Kirkwall and Sumburgh will also be suspended for this six week period.
Loganair have said the reason for their decision to suspend all services between these HIAL airports is because of the unpredictability of the impact of work-to-rule action (where last-minute staff absences cannot be covered by overtime or shift swaps, for example, potentially leading to minimum staffing requirements not being able to be met to allow the airport to operate). The airline have said they intend to operate flights from the Western Isles to non-HIAL airports as normally as possible during the weeks ahead, other than on specific strike dates which will completely close affected airports (Stornoway on 8-9th March and Benbecula on 10th March).
However, this has meant that hospital patients who would normally be able to travel to and from their appointments at Raigmore Hospital in one day will now need to make a two day return trip via ferry and bus, as well as having to find overnight accommodation in Inverness. Many concerned individuals have contacted the islands’ MSP to express how challenging the suspension of this service would make their lives over the next six weeks, particularly those needing to use this service for work and those for whom long journeys via ferry and bus could take a greater toll on their already fragile health.
Allan had recently written to Transport Minister regarding the sale of Loganair and the importance of contingencies for air connectivity within the forthcoming Island Connectivity Plan (ICP). The MSP said that this situation reemphasised that the needs of islanders must be better planned for and prioritised, particularly in cases of planned air service disruptions.
Commenting on the proposed service suspension, Allan said:
“Island residents are understandably extremely concerned at the suspension of the essential air service from Stornoway and Benbecula to Inverness. People in the Western Isles rely heavily on this service for a huge variety of reasons: for example, to travel to vital hospital appointments at Raigmore; to travel to work offshore; or to visit family and friends.
“I appreciate that ongoing industrial action will be affecting Loganair’s ability to reliably deliver services. However, it is totally unacceptable to cancel all connections between the Western Isles and Inverness for at least six weeks, and I have contacted Loganair to urge them to consider alternative options.
“I have also spoken with the Transport Minister to highlight the situation, and I hope that the matter is able to be resolved as soon as possible to avoid further anxiety and disruption.”
Loganair’s full statement can be viewed here.