LOGANAIR has admitted to campaigners demanding improved Highlands and Islands flights that its reliability is “simply not been good enough”.
Chief executive Stewart Adams said improving performance was “critical” and its top priority.
Speaking after a five-hour meeting with Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael and other islanders last night, he said: “On reliability, we were very up-front - it’s simply not been good enough in recent months, even allowing for the unique challenges of operating in an island environment, with all the weather problems that brings.”
Mr Adams said Loganair was recruiting more engineers to fix aircraft faults and had improved its spare parts to cut delays caused by waiting for replacements.
Four extra 50-seat aircraft have also been added to the fleet with a fifth due next year.
Mr Adams said: “Of course, these initiatives will take time to have their full impact, but our passengers can be assured that I have made every single one of the 570 people in Loganair fully aware of the critical importance of making reliability our top priority.”
The meeting followed the launch of a Facebook campaign - Islanders Against Flybe and Loganair’s Excessive Prices - which attracted nearly 15,000 followers.
It claimed their passengers were paying the highest fares in Europe. Loganair operates the flights on behalf of Flybe.
Mr Adams made a commitment to extend the concessionary fare scheme for hospital visits to include family funerals.
He said: “This should make a real difference to our passengers at times when they need our help and understanding.”
However, he sought to counter price comparisons with low-cost airlines, such as EasyJet and Ryanair, and said Loganair only made about half their profit margin.
The chief executive also rejected claims of “massive price hikes” and said Loganair’s fares, net of taxes, had increased by an average of 2 per cent over the last eight years when RPI inflation had averaged 3 per cent.
Scott Preston, who launched the Facebook campaign, said of the reliability pledge: “It is clear this is a matter of professional pride to Mr Adams that this issue be resolved.
“His personal assurances, along with those of his director of engineering, have demonstrated the commitment of the airline to ensuring their service to our communities exceeds expectations and wins back the trust those customers who have felt frustrated over recent weeks.
“A large number of group members had expressed concerns about the cost of travelling for unexpected family emergencies.
“Senior management at Loganair showed their willingness to expand their current range of discounts to meet this need.”
Mr Carmichael said: “Some of the problems they [Loganair] face are complex, and time will tell whether they are successful in dealing with them.
“I was, however, impressed by the determination that they faced in this regard.
“The meeting was one of the most productive and constructive that I have known.
“Credit for that should go both to Scott Preston and his fellow campaigners and to the senior Loganair management who made the trip to Shetland.”
“They were not promising big changes [on pricing] but their willingness to look at a scheme to help people travelling at short notice, for example following a bereavement, may produce some improvements for local people.”