Alastair Dalton: Airlines must tell bad news as well as good

Air France celebrating the launch of its Glasgow-Paris route last year. Picture: Nick Ponty
Air France celebrating the launch of its Glasgow-Paris route last year. Picture: Nick Ponty
Have your say

The sun always seems to shines in the world of aviation publicity.

It is all about going onwards and upwards - new routes, more flights and a realm of extra possibilities for budding travellers to start dreaming about.

Even the merest increase in capacity on a route, such as one additional service, seems to warrant an effusive announcement containing copious supportive comments from politicians, the tourism industry and all and sundry.

Some parts of the industry also give the impression you can easily fly from your nearest airport to virtually anywhere with no impediment.

The various connections that are often needed where there are in fact no direct flights are buried in some airline booking websites, and are strangely absent when embarking on the process with some carriers.

But in stark contrast to the huge song and dance made by many airlines when they’re expanding, you won’t hear a peep from most of them when they’re doing the opposite.

When there’s bad news, you have to drag it out of them. Otherwise, a route may have disappeared from the radar and you’d be none the wiser. It could be as simple as the plane taking off and never coming back.

In the renewed aviation boom that Scotland is experiencing, such retrenchment has been less frequent.

However, it was brought into sharp focus by The Scotsman’s revelations this week that United Airlines’ winter flights between Glasgow and New York were being axed after 19 years, and Air France was ending its Glasgow-Paris route after just two.

In both cases, I don’t believe any announcement was made or statement proactively issued by either airline after the story broke.

United, Glasgow Airport and VisitScotland were also terse when asked about why such a significant US link had been truncated.

In the case of Air France, it also mangled the English language - surely not through being lost in translation - in explaining why the Paris route had been dropped.

The airline said its policy was “to adapt its flight offering in real time, in order to best meet demand and take into account the current economic context”.

Let’s hope for more clarity, frankness and honesty in the next airline public relations offensive - over the impending air war on the busiest routes to the Northern and Western Isles.

From September, current partners Loganair and Flybe go head to head on routes to Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway.

On the face of it, that’s good news for passengers, who may think they will be paying less to fly and have more to choose from.

But watch out for the spin over prices - they may not be any cheaper in the end.

Airline fares are notoriously difficult to track, but while there may be more seats available in the lower price bands, the bands themselves may not start much, if any, lower than at present. An added complication will be the need to look for whether there are extra charges, such as for baggage.

Passengers should also check for onward connections, as there may be fewer because the airlines will no longer offer through bookings and checked baggage with each other.

For the one in five passengers who fly on elsewhere, that could be a significant change.

However, if one of the airlines loses the battle, here’s an early plea that they are up front about it. That would be setting a good example.