Support grows for costly island flights campaign

AIR travellers in Scotland’s islands are paying for “Europe’s most expensive flights”, according to campaigners who have launched a popular online protest against “excessive” costs.

Flybe have been targeted along with Loganair. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A return flight between Shetland and Orkney – a distance of just 85 miles – has been costed at more than £154. This is £83 more expensive than a return flight from Lisbon to the Azores, some ten times further in distance at 850 miles.

An online petition has been launched on Facebook – Islanders Against Flybe and Loganair’s Excessive Prices – and has attracted thousands of followers.

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Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson claimed the £154 fare between Shetland and Orkney could make it “‘mile-for-mile Europe’s most expensive flight”.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: “It is not surprising to see how quickly this campaign has gathered support. Despite the welcome introduction of the Air Discount Scheme under the previous Scottish Executive, the cost of air travel to and from the islands remains relatively high. The current problems with flight delays and cancellations have added to the sense of frustration and anger felt locally. A combination of high fares and poor reliability is a potent mix in any circumstances, but particularly for a lifeline service such as this. It is clear that Loganair need to get to grips with the issues of cost and reliability.”

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has previously clashed with Loganair on the issue of ticket prices, particularly after the global price of oil fell.

Since its launch at the weekend, the Facebook page has been inundated with posts from island residents sharing their own experiences. The online campaign was set up by Shetland resident Scott Preston, who is hoping that the page will raise the profile of the high costs.

He said: “Those who live on Scottish islands deserve answers from Loganair and I hope that they will respond to the legitimate and serious issues raised by those ho have posted to the page. That thousands of people have backed the campaign will be of no surprise to anyone on the Scottish islands. This has been an issue for many years and there is a great deal of local anger and disappointment at the poor service that is on offer.

“The strength of feeling is clear: islanders should not be penalised with fares equivalent to a two-week all-inclusive holiday in Greece just to see family and friends.

“Local people have shared stories about being unable to afford to travel home for weddings and funerals. We have even had a family share their story about being unable to afford to fly down from Orkney to visit their daughter who has cancer and is in a hospital in Glasgow. The Isles’ hospitals are not eligible for the Air Discount Scheme and so flying patients to mainland hospitals comes at a vast cost to their budgets.

“One poster explained that in accompanying a patient from Stornoway to Glasgow for a day return, the bill was £678. “

A spokesman for Loganair said: “Loganair operates flights from Shetland, Orkney, and the Western Isles at their own commercial risk without any government subsidy.”