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Loganair flight cutbacks in Highlands and Islands ‘being noticed’ by region’s business community, warns Inverness Chamber of Commerce

By Philip Murray

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Loganair said its recent service cuts were made to consolidate its wider operations. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
Loganair said its recent service cuts were made to consolidate its wider operations. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

A cut in Loganair flights in the Highlands and islands is having an impact on the economy, a leading business figure has warned.

Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Colin Marr said a recent reduction in the number of flights from Loganair is "being noticed by the business community" - both in terms of the impact on the leisure sector, but also in its impact on business travellers coming too and from the region.

He was speaking after Loganair announced that it was cutting the frequency of flights this summer between Inverness and Manchester - which are falling from 11 to nine - as well as between Inverness and Stornoway (down one to nine).

Some flights outside the Highlands were also being scrapped after the airline announced it wished to “restore the image and reputation” after admitting that service levels had dropped below what it and customers expected in the past 18 months.

The reduction in the number of flights was seen as an attempt to concentrate on its core network.

But critics warned that it might impact on communities’ connectivity and also have an economic effect.

The changes come amid ongoing complaints from some travellers, with one frequent flier getting in touch with the Courtier recently to air her frustration over the absence of routes linking Inverness with some of the UK's biggest cities - including the second biggest, Birmingham.

Dr Sandra MacDonald, who now lives in the Midlands but originally hails from the Highlands and still has strong links to Nairn, said she frequently flew from her home back to the region - but that changes to routes and frequencies are making things more difficult for many.

She said she was having to fly from Luton and that no flights from the UK’s “second city” of Birmingham was “pretty poor”.

"I am sure many are perturbed to know about the removal of the Loganair flight from Inverness to Birmingham, leaving the city with no direct flights from the Midlands at all," she said. "As the holiday season approaches this is bound to have a detrimental effect on tourism and clearly the implications for business travel are dire.

"I have been a frequent user of the route in the past and am struggling to find an alternative route now but this is much more serious than my personal problem with getting to my home town. It is so damaging for our Highland region and sends out a message that we can only be accessed from London (or Bristol which is even further away from the Midlands)."

Her concerns over the impact of the flight changes on the tourist season are shared by Mr Marr at the Inverness Chamber of Commerce.

Reacting to local concerns, he said: “The reduction in flights from Loganair is being noticed by the business community – and in particular our business members who were regularly commuting to Dublin and Birmingham and are missing these routes.

“The reduction in service to Manchester and Stornoway is also disappointing. Loganair have apologised for the reduction in flight numbers and service levels and we hope that once its aircraft replacement programme is complete that we’ll see these services restored.”

Dr MacDonald, meanwhile, recognised that Loganair’s cuts were made because they’d had a “lot of complaints” but argued that tackling those issues should not come at the expense of making cuts elsewhere on other routes in its network.

Loganair’s new chief executive, Luke Farajallah, who took the helm in March, previously said the changes were “made for the greater good of the vast majority of customers”.

Speaking at the time the cuts were announced he insisted the airline remained “relentlessly focused on confidently serving our core markets and core customers” and implied that the cuts might be temporary in nature by adding: “We intend to defend and grow our presence in these markets through the demonstration that we can and will deliver consistent operational stability and excellence”.

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