Islands “being held hostage” over strike talks impasse – six-week cancellation of Inverness flights

Loganair said they hoped a resolution could be found.Loganair said they hoped a resolution could be found.
Loganair said they hoped a resolution could be found.
Disruption to island travel hit a new low after it was announced that flights to Inverness – a key route for medical appointments to Raigmore – will be cancelled for a six-week period on the back of the industrial action being taken by staff at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited.

Airline operator Loganair said that the “cumulative” effect of staff unavailaiblity at airports meant that they have been forced to cancel services that operate between Benbecula, Stornoway and Inverness, starting on 17th March and through to 30th April.

Members of the Prospect union voted to introduce a work to rule, after a failure to agree on a pay settlement. Jane Rose, negotiations officer, said it was “extremely frustrating” that the Scottish Government would not become directly involved as it was clear that HIAL could not move without the approval of Ministers.

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She said: “It would not take a lot to resolve this but it is entirely in the hands of the Scottish Government”.

Howwever, despite a resolution seemingly being in sight, the situation has now “significantly escalated” from the point of view of the travelling public.

After assessing available options and impacts, a Loganair spokesperson said that while flights to Glasgow and Edinburgh could be managed during the indusutrial action the “cumulative effect of rolling restrictions at each airport” meant they had little option but to cancel flights between HIAL airports.

"We completely understand that this unprecedented step will be unwelcome news to communities who depend on the air services Loganair provides. It’s a step that we are taking with the utmost reluctance and only after careful consideration of all other options,” they said.

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“We have sadly concluded that it’s simply not realistic to continue our efforts to provide services between HIAL airports when the action short of a strike is intended to disrupt and counter those efforts at every turn.

“The suspension provides advance – even if unwelcome - certainty around which our customers can adjust travel plans, as opposed to facing the risk of on-the-day flight cancellations or significant delays. We hope that the period of suspension will provide time and space for the parties to this dispute to meet and reach a resolution, enabling these long-running services to resume thereafter.”

Torcuil Crichton, prospective Labour candidate Na h-Eileanan an Iar, called on the Scottish Government to come to the assistance of the islands.

“This is an incredible escalation of the airport dispute by HIAL who are threatening to suspend flights from Inverness to Stornoway and Benbecula for six weeks in response to a work to rule by staff," he said.“The company cannot be allowed to hold the islands hostage in a pay and conditions dispute. The knock-on effect on hospital appointments alone is unimaginable.HIAL is answerable to the Scottish Government and I’ve previously called on Transport Secretary Jenny Gilruth to intervene and broker a settlement.HIAL say they can only negotiate within government flexibility on pay, the Minster has to come to the table and get these flights back on.”

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HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon commented: “We apologise for the disruption this will cause. The ongoing industrial action is having a significant impact on our airline partners and the announcement by Loganair to temporarily suspend some flights will cause considerable disruption for our island communities.”