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Airtask Group executives and staff meet the first passengers

Sunshine and great enthusiasm dominated proceedings at Stornoway Airport today (Friday 12 April) on the first day of flights by Hebridean Air Services on the Benbecula-Stornoway route.

This followed the cessation of the Loganair services at the end of March and a tender process conducted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar which has awarded a four-year contract.

Julie Simper, Managing Director of Airtask Group, which owns Hebridean Air Services, was there to see the launch of the service along with other staff, both local and national.

She spoke glowingly of the co-operation which they had received from Loganair – which is dealing with their ground handling – and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd in getting the new service off the ground in a matter of weeks since the contract was awarded.

The agreement with Hebridean Air Services sees the service return to three days of operation per week with passengers able to book return flights on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. The service is provided by one of Hebridean Air Service’s 8-passenger Britten Norman Islander aircraft which will be based in Stornoway and sheltered overnight in the Gaydon hangar.  The plane can land easily on either runway at the airport, giving it flexibility for coping with wind conditions. As a light aircraft, it follows an oversea route to and from Benbecula.

Hebridean Air Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Airtask Group Limited, will run the service alongside its PSO routes based at Oban and in Shetland, all served by Britten Norman Islanders. 

Airtask Group was established around 40 years ago and they currently operate more than ten aircraft, ranging from a DA42 to the BAE 146-301 Atmospheric Research Aircraft.  Julie Simper emphasised they had long connections with both Stornoway and Benbecula as they had operated fisheries aircraft since 1990s and pointed out that herself has been to both places in the past.

Tickets for the Benbecula-Stornoway route are available through the Hebridean Air Services website at Hebridean Air Services Ltd (bookhebridean.co.uk).

The service does not qualify for the ADS discount to passengers as it is already subsidised by the public sector through the Public Service Obligation contract awarded by CnES and tickets are presently priced at £99.20.  

Julie Simper said they had already received a wider range of suggestions for additional services, particularly leisure or sightseeing flights, but the focus for now was on making sure everything continued to go smoothly with the new service.

Confusingly there was a Loganair flight to Benbecula this morning as well, the return leg of a flight yesterday which combined together flights to Benbecula and Stornoway.