Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan hit out at the decision of Eastern Airways to cancel its Aberdeen to Stornoway service.
This came after customers enquiring with Eastern Airways started being told by customer service agents that the service is being discontinued and that 26 October would be the last day of the Aberdeen service. And Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has made clear it has been given no direct information about the change from either Flybe or Eastern Airways.
According to the Flybe website which deals with Eastern Airways bookings, there are five flights in the week ending October 19; then it drops to three the week after; before petering out and ending completely the following week.
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “This is yet more disappointing news for users of the Aberdeen to Stornoway service.
“The decision to end this service with less than three weeks notice and no consultation contrasts sharply with past statements the company has made about being dedicated to the route and serving the islands.
"It was only in March that they announced an increase to the number of Aberdeen flights before reversing this decision within the space of a few months. There have also been serious complaints about reliability.
“The Aberdeen service is an important one, especially to those islanders who work in the oil and gas sector.
"I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson MSP, to express my concern about this state of affairs and I have also written to Loganair to ask if they would consider an Aberdeen – Stornoway service.”
Following this reaction, Eastern Airways issued a statement “Regrettably, due to the increasing costs of operating the Aberdeen–Stornoway route, we are left with no alternative but to withdraw the service from 29th October 2018 as it becomes unviable to sustain.
"With a mix of increasing ground handling charges at Stornoway airport, fuel increasing, compensation likelihood as we head into winter combined with a shortage of aircraft following ground-handling damage sustained to two aircraft in the past months reducing fleet availability in the short-medium term, these have combined to culminate in our decision to withdraw from the route.
"Passengers with bookings beyond 29th October will be offered a full refund.”
Reacting on Facebook to the first news of the cutback, Murdo MacRitchie said the decision was "An absolute disgrace. EA have shown a complete lack of commitment to the route since its inception in 2005, despite having extremely high utilisation of passengers, especially on a Monday and Friday. What a blow to the island!"
Commenting later on welovestornoway.com Facebook, Kenny Maclean said: "Let them go! An unreliable service is worse than no service. Pathetic attempt at providing a service."
And the Comhairle has expressed dismay at the apparent discontinuation of the air service between Aberdeen and Stornoway. In a media statement issued on Wednesday morning (October 10th) Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “Whilst we have always recognised the commercial realties for Eastern Airways, more recently in collaboration with Flybe, in operating the air service between Aberdeen and Stornoway, we were disappointed to note the reduction in the service earlier this year.
"However, we are dismayed by the apparent decision of the airlines to now completely discontinue the service and with no notice whatsoever to key stakeholders such as the Comhairle.
“There appear to be no flights available for the service on the Flybe website after 26 October 2018 and we shall be seeking a full explanation from the airlines as why the service has been cut with no notice given that, not long ago, the airline give a firm commitment to maintaining a positive dialogue with stakeholders.”
(Additional information has been added to this story since it was first published)