Loganair is only cutting one week off its suspension of flights from Inverness to Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd airports following the resolution of recent pay disputes between HIAL and several trades unions
The airline suspended flights as unions as HIAL airports confronted a period of industrial action short of a strike between 17 March and 30 April.
With work-to-rule plans eliminating the airline’s ability to coordinate its operations with confidence across March and April, flights from Inverness to Sumburgh via Kirkwall and between Inverness and Benbecula via Stornoway were withdrawn from service to give passengers certainty and time to make alternative travel arrangements.
A new pay offer was made by HIAL on Friday, 10 March, and unions have today (21 March) confirmed this has been accepted by members.
The positive news allows Loganair to partially restore its services on affected flights from 24 April – one week earlier than initially scheduled.
A spokesperson for Loganair said: “We are heartened and relieved to learn of the settlement of the pay dispute between Highlands & Islands Airports and unions representing many of its employees.
"With this news, we can all now focus on delivering a busy summer season ahead – the first full year of open international travel since the pandemic – without fear of rolling disruption to island flights from strikes and work-to-rule actions.
"We have reviewed all possibilities to restore suspended services between HIAL airports earlier than initially anticipated, and we are happy to confirm that flights from Inverness will resume on Monday, 24 April, one week earlier than previously planned.
"These will go on sale from Thursday, 23 March, via Loganair’s website and major booking systems.
"In the meantime, Loganair continues to offer services on all other routes to Benbecula, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh, including the inter-isles air service between Benbecula and Stornoway.”
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has called for Loganair to bring forward their proposed resumption date for services to Inverness.
“This morning’s good news that Prospect union members had acceptance HIAL’s new pay deal invoked a widespread hope that Loganair would be reinstating flights on routes between the Western Isles and Inverness, as it had promised, ‘as soon as it is practical to do so’.
“However, this hope was dashed when Loganair announced this afternoon that, despite planned work-to-rule action having been called off since last Monday, their suspension of this service would continue, being shortened by only one week.
“This is completely unacceptable for our island communities. This route is essential for those needing to travel to the mainland for hospital appointments or for work, and it a vital transport link.
“I urge Loganair to rethink this decision, given the ongoing impact of their decision to suspend this lifeline service.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant expressed her fury that Loganair would be unable to reinstate flights for a further month.
Mrs Grant said “Requiring “lead in” time for customers to re-book their flights is an abysmal excuse. Loganair wouldn’t need Lead in time if it hadn’t cancelled on its already booked customers to begin with.
“Strike action is often averted at the last moment, and all the cancellation of these flights has achieved is to put unnecessary pressure on communities which desperately needed them.
"If Loganair had a problem with the proposed collective action, then it should have brought its pressure down on HIAL as its service provider, not islanders who form its business base.
Mrs Grant added, “Islanders already pay one of the highest fares per mile of anywhere in the world. To then have these flights, including those for medical appointments, work appointments and long awaited family holidays swept away at a moment’s notice because another company’s staff are working to their contracted terms and conditions beggar’s belief
“It was an appalling business decision and an appalling betrayal of the communities which Loganair serves and has to call into question why these flights are not under a PSO.”
Public Service Obligation flights - like the four-year contract to operate the flights to and from Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown which was awarded to Loganair 2019 - are supported by public money. That contract is worth around £21m and is operated using HIAL’s Twin Otter DHC6-400 planes. Loganair is providing the services from Inverness on a fully commercial basis in its own aircraft.
(Comments are being added to this article as the evening continues.)