‘No duty of care’ for stranded passengers

Forty Stornoway-bound passengers had to spend last Friday night in a Gregg’s café at Glasgow Airport after their Loganair flight was unable to land. Most of them eventually reached Lewis by bus and ferry.
The 24/7 Greggs in the airport was the only refuge for those stranded.The 24/7 Greggs in the airport was the only refuge for those stranded.
The 24/7 Greggs in the airport was the only refuge for those stranded.

The episode has raised questions about Loganair’s ground handling arrangements with one passenger telling the Gazette there was “a real lack of a basic duty of care” with no employee of the company available to provide information.

It also reinforced concerns about whether the Loganair fleet – which now operate across a greatly expanded route network – has become too thinly spread. The initial problem was that the Stornoway plane was delayed because it had to be diverted to a Southampton flight.

The Stornoway flight eventually took off at 9 pm, but could not land after two attempts due to poor visibility, necessitating a return to Glasgow.

A representative of Menzies, the handling company used by Loganair, told passengers that no hotel rooms were available and eventually presented them with blankets to spend the night in Gregg’s or on waiting area chairs.

One passenger said: “It was hard to believe not a single hotel room could be found. There were people with mobility problems and a mother with a small child, who were eventually found a place in the chaplaincy.”

The following morning’s early flight was also unable to land at Stornoway though some passengers had been routed via Edinburgh. The remainder were bussed to Ullapool but when they arrived, nobody had informed Caledonian MacBrayne. Fortunately there was space available for foot passengers.

Iain MacLean, from Tolstachaolais, was travelling back with his wife. He said: "It first started when we got word that the plane to Stornoway would be late as it had been diverted to Southampton,” he said. “When we eventually left we thought ‘well we’re getting home anyway’ but we were sent back to Glasgow due to low-lying cloud.

"When we got back we were told there were no hotels available and were just given blankets and meal vouchers.”

He added: “There was a real lack of a basic duty of care and we were given very little information on what was happening. Despite all that, everyone kept calm and polite.”

The Gazette sent a number of questions to Loganair based on the information we had received.

However, the specific questions were ignored and instead the company provided a statement.

It said: “We apologise for the disruption caused by our delayed Glasgow to Stornoway service which had to return to Glasgow due to weather conditions in Stornoway.

"Our customer care and ground handling partners worked tirelessly to accommodate and transport customers to their final destination as soon as possible.

"Unfortunately, despite extensive efforts to source accommodation in and well beyond Glasgow, no provision was available.

"We provided blankets and meal vouchers to customers and appealed to airport partners to source a lounge area before arranging alternative transport. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”

MEANWHILE, Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus MacNeil, whose own flight arrangements had been disturbed due to Loganair cancellations said the fault lay in a missing piece of technology – a navigation system “in the sky” – which he said was as a result of Brexit.

Mr MaxcNeil was unable to attend the SNP convention on independence in Dundee and Tweeted: “My Dundee expedition is over to the SNP convention.

“Loganair can't land in Stornoway, (post a 4 hour delay) when mist closed at the wrong time. Likely reason for non landing is Brexit - which removed "EGNOS" - the EU 3D "in the sky" navigation system.”

The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service is a satellite-based system now common across the continent which is used in both aviation and in marine navigation.

The Gazette contacted Highlands and Islands Airports Limited to ascertain whether it was still in use. A statement was awaited as we went to press yesterday (Wednesday).