PASSENGERS flying for family emergencies in the Highlands and Islands will pay only half price under a UK-first deal announced yesterday by Loganair.
The move follows lobbying by campaigners angry at the high cost of flights in northern Scotland.
The new “compassionate travel policy” covers people flying because of the death or hospital treatment of an immediate family member. Critical and unexpected illness is also included.
Loganair, which operates flights on behalf of Flybe, also pledged to be more flexible if passengers had to be change their plans.
Chief executive Stewart Adams said: “With the introduction of this policy we believe Loganair is now offering a comprehensive compassionate fare unique in the UK airline industry.
“More importantly, we are confident the reduced fares will be of great benefit to our customers in circumstances of bereavement and critical illness the very times they need assistance most.”
Mr Adams said the policy had been devised following “weeks of constructive collaboration” with campaigner Scott Preston, who launched a campaign on Facebook against Loganair’s high fares.
The page, Islanders Against Flybe and Loganair’s Excessive Prices, has attracted more than 15,000 followers.
Mr Preston, a former funeral director, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have made such significant progress with the campaign. When it launched, members told us that one issue they wanted to see resolved was a possibility for a bereavement fare.
“As a result of our work with Loganair we have not only met that demand but also expanded on it to include situations of emergency and critical care.
“This is a monumental change, the first enhancement for air travel to all the isles since 2006.
“Its introduction shows the power that local people have in changing their communities for the better.
“Loganair deserve credit for being open to discussing this matter.”
However, Mr Preston said he would continue to press the airline, the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Airports on general fare levels, which he claimed were the highest in Europe.
The airline carries 500,000 passengers a year on some 20 routes between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and the Western Isles, Kintyre, Orkney and Shetland.
Council leaders have claimed it can cost nearly as much to fly between the islands and mainland Scotland as it does between Scotland and Portugal.
Orkney Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “People in Orkney will welcome this new cheaper fare. Those travelling at the last minute due to a family bereavement are particularly vulnerable to very high costs. So this move by Loganair will be to offer help at a time when it is badly needed.”
National Association of Funeral Directors chief executive Alan Slater said: “We congratulate Loganair on the launch of the new compassionate fare.”