The biggest Scottish island air battle for decades was launched today with Flybe and Eastern Airways competing against former partners Loganair.
Eastern will operate flights for Flybe between Sumburgh in Shetland and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
It will also fly between Stornoway in Lewis and Glasgow, and between Kirkwall in Orkney and Aberdeen.
Glasgow-Manchester flights have also been launched.
The rivalry is likely to sharpen up services by both operators, but experts have questioned whether there is sufficient demand for two airlines on such routes to low population areas.
It is also unclear whether the competition will reduce fares overall after initial promotions.
The dogfight follows a bust-up between Flybe and Loganair, which had operated flights on its behalf for the last nine years.
The dispute, over Flybe’s plans to charge Loganair more for the partnership, has left considerable bad blood between them.
Flybe claimed today its new deal with Eastern would provide “extra choice, lower fares and a wealth of onward connections” for passengers
Chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: “Flybe is committed to continuing to serve Scotland and these particular six routes allow us to provide the genuine competition and lower fares that islanders have so long been calling for.”
She said there would be “more options to access a wider range of onward destinations both via our wider Flybe network, and beyond to important global markets through our many codeshare and interline partners.”
Loganair said its passengers would be able to link in with British Airways flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, with baggage checked through to destinations across the world.
Managing director Jonathan Hinkles has said: “The only people who think there is room for two airlines on the island routes is our competitor, no one else does.
“Be it councils, economists, transport experts or anyone you speak to, they say there isn’t room for two.
“But we’re focused on delivering the very best service, at the best price and with the best reliability that we can to make sure that we win the battle in which we’re engaged.”
Aviation consultant John Strickland has told The Scotsman: “This brings a whole new level of competition to a number of important Scottish domestic routes.
“The key to success will depend on whether the market grows to allow profitability for both operators or whether it a simply develops into a price battle for existing traffic.”