Wind farm construction and oil and gas activity has helped Loganair recover from the Covid pandemic “far faster” in Shetland than in other island areas, a meeting heard on Wednesday.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles told Shetland’s external transport forum that Sumburgh is faring better than Orkney and the Western Isles when it comes to flight activity following lockdown.
This is also in part due to oil and gas flights and Royal Mail contracts.
The airline has put on flights for people working on the Viking Energy wind farm construction and associated infrastructure, which got under way last year.
These additional contracts support 36 jobs at Sumburgh Airport, Hinkles said.
Meanwhile the Loganair chief has reiterated his support for Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s (HIAL) controversial plans to carry out air traffic control in the region remotely.
His view is that it will “enhance safety”.
But Hinkles conceded that industrial action from air traffic controllers, which includes no overtime working, has affected the ability to catch up with the knock-on effects of any delayed flights.
He also said bookings for Shetland flights in October is expected to be around three quarters of 2019 numbers.
Reduced international travel and less elective surgeries on the mainland continues to affect bookings.
Hinkles also said that Test and Protect pings and the resulting impact on people’s bookings have put a “tremendous” workload on customer service staff.
This also had an impact on Loganair crew during a weekend in July, ending the company’s long run of avoiding Covid-related cancellations, but the disruption was mainly related to Aberdeen-based staff.
Hinkles also said that five customers have been banned from flying with Loganair due to a “wilful failure” to stick to face covering rules, but they were not on Shetland routes.
He told the meeting that he predicted the rule on face coverings on planes could be in place through to next summer.
The Loganair chief also said there will be a “same plane” Sumburgh-Aberdeen-Manchester-Newquay service up to five times weekly in summer 2022.
This comes in addition to new summer Sumburgh-Dundee-London flights, the reintroduction of the air link between Shetland and Bergen and a second Glasgow-Sumburgh service on Friday, Sunday and Monday evenings.
Forum chairman Ryan Thomson said it was “extremely welcome news to see from a Shetland PLC perspective” that Loganair was introducing more passenger flights following Covid restrictions.
Hinkles said following a question from the councillor that the company is hopeful there will be no lockdown this winter.
He took part in a call with first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday along with other representatives and Hinkles said the feedback was positive regarding the prospect of another lockdown.
By local democracy reporter Chris Cope