Residents, businesses and visitors who travel between Lewis/ Harris and the Aberdeen area were encouraged to take part in an independent online survey on journey needs, and almost 400 responses were received.
The survey, launched in June, is part of a study commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in response to requests from groups in Lewis and Harris for an enhanced air service between Stornoway and Aberdeen.
The study, undertaken by consultants ekosgen, in partnership with Reference Economics and RDC Aviation, was based on the survey findings in addition to Civil Aviation Authority data.
The final report indicates a significant demand for improved air services between the two regions, demanding both a morning and evening flight, rather than the existing one early afternoon flight.
Most demand comes from residents of Lewis and Harris who work outside the islands. In addition to offshore workers, this includes people employed onshore in the oil and gas sector in the Aberdeen area and those in shipping and other sectors.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the new report by Highlands and Islands following a long running campaign by islanders working in the North Sea oil industry to ensure flights are timed to meet their needs.
Alasdair Allan commented: “This week’s report offers an interesting insight into an issue which has been raised with me and others for several years. For many of the people in the Western Isles who work offshore the current timings of Eastern Airways flights do not tie-up with the helicopter services out to the rigs. This means that many people have to break their journeys overnight in Aberdeen or Inverness.
“This new survey by HIE has gathered 400 responses and seeks to analyse what potential might exist to improve the air service in future.
“For me the most significant finding is that an improved service will be more likely to ensure that islanders working in this industry stayed resident here and continued to contribute to the island economy.
“While this report does not of itself change the situation it will, I think, reopen the debate about this issue and HIE are to be commended for their work.”