Travellers leaving the island from Sunday (July 21st) after the weekend’s festivities at Hebridean Celtic Festival could find themselves battling the odds to get home.
Bad weather forecasts, full ferries and strike action at airports could combine to cause changes to travel plans, with flights especially subject to unexpected disruption.
A Met Office weather warning issued this morning (Friday July 19th) predicts heavy rain across the west of Scotland, accompanied by strong winds on Sunday and Monday.
The warning, issued just after 10am today, covers the period between 6pm on Sunday and 6am on Tuesday. Strong winds are also forecast, with the chief forecaster saying: “The rain will be accompanied by strong winds, bringing a spell of coastal gales and gusts to around 50mph over hills and headlands.”
Industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) who belong to the trade union Prospect is already set to disrupt air travel. ATCs are in dispute with Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd over pay, and have planned specific days of action including strike days at HIAL airports. Working to rule also means flights can be further delayed if they don’t run to schedule.
Loganair has put in place a series of timetable changes and cancellations around the availability of each airport. There will be no flights at Inverness airport on Sunday or at Stornoway on Tuesday, and other flights are also disrupted. Sunday’s Stornoway to Inverness service is cancelled, the Stornoway to Edinburgh re-timed, and there’s a possibility of other late-notice changes to timetable.
Loganair, major sponsors of the Hebridean Celtic Festival, say they are doing what they can to reduce the disruption. A spokesman for Loganair told welovestornoway.com today: “As a long-term supporter of HebCelt we’re aware of the festival’s importance within the cultural calendar of the Western Isles.
“Despite the relatively short notice of this weekend’s Air Traffic Control industrial action, we’ve implemented an extensive range of measures including additional services and rescheduling to minimise impact upon customers across our network. Strike action and ongoing Work to Rule by Air Traffic Controllers continues to place immense strain upon our entire network but we hope disruption can be mitigated by these changes to our flying programme.”
Meanwhile for ferry passengers, three crossings from Stornoway to Ullapool aboard MV Loch Seaforth are planned for Sunday at 6am, 1pm and 8pm. All sailings on Saturday, Sunday and Monday are now fully booked for vehicles. There’s limited availability for vehicles on Tuesday sailings, and some foot passenger space still available on all sailings except Sunday’s 1pm sailing, which is fully booked for foot and vehicle passengers.
Stornoway’s CalMac ferry port manager Iain Don Maciver said the weather as currently forecast was not expected to affect crossings between Stornoway and Ullapool. He said: “We’re seeing nothing that causes us any concern, although it’s certainly going to be very wet and fresh on Monday and perhaps a wee bit bumpy on the crossing.”