Public fears over Omicron leads to air service cut

Loganair have announced a major reduction on flights to and from Stornoway as a result of a significant downturn in demand emanating from the pandemic fallout.

Thursday, 9th December 2021, 8:47 am
Loganair announced a reduction in the Stornoway-Glasgow timetable for next month due to fears over the Omicron spread

The company will reduce services to Glasgow from three flights a day down to two on Monday to Friday and on the weekend from two flights per day to one. No other service to the Western Isles is affected – at this stage.

In a briefing note to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, seen by the Gazette, Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “Over the last couple of weeks, the emergence of the Omicron strain of the Covid-19 virus has led to a significant deterioration in customer confidence and forward bookings across our route network.

"Our trading performance in November was adversely impacted by the COP26 summit in Glasgow, yet December flights were reasonably well sold, in particular those over the Christmas travel period. We expect to fly the full planned schedule for the remainder of this month and into the first few days of January.”

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He added: “However, the deterioration in bookings means that our expected passenger numbers for flights from early January through to mid February are now far behind where we’d expect them to be at this stage. On many routes, our forward bookings are up to 50% behind what we’d expect to see, comparing current trends with an average of the same period in the three years preceding the pandemic.

"It’s simply not sensible or practical – either on economic or environmental grounds – for us to press ahead with a full schedule for January and February when all indications are that customer demand won’t exist to support it.”

For booking, the changes to the timetable are now live and will come into effect from 5th January.

"Clearly, we’d infinitely prefer not to be in a position where this course of action is necessary,” he said. “That said, the severity of the impact of the Omicron variant on customer demand is so great that we’d be putting entire routes, regional connectivity and jobs at risk if we sat and did nothing. We are hoping that this will be a very short-term impact and that we can resume a more normal level of service from mid February onwards.”