Island airports only open for essential and lifeline servcies

HIAL airports have announced that they will only be open for lifeline and essential services.

In a statement posted on their website this morning (Thursday, March 26th) the airport operator said: “Following the strict measures announced by the Prime Minister and the First Minister on March 23rd, we have been liaising closely with Scottish Government and aviation partners to ensure its airports can continue their unique role in providing lifeline services for our communities, now and into the future.

It is important HIAL does all it can to limit the spread of infection, protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and have the necessary resilience in place to maintain its ability to service essential and emergency flights.

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“In order to maintain these vital air links, we have made the difficult, but necessary, decision to close all our airports to scheduled flights and routine general aviation traffic with effect from Sunday, March 29th.”

The statement continued: “Our communities, in particular those on the islands, rely on our airports for vital services and we are currently working with Transport Scotland and Loganair to agree a skeleton schedule that will ensure our airports continue to provide lifeline and essential services, including NHS passenger transfer, the Royal Mail and the oil and gas industry.

“Our airport managers will implement contingency arrangements to ensure our airports continue to operate as required.

“The contingency measures we have in place will ensure we maintain resilience to enable us to continue to safely service essential flights with the minimum staffing levels required.”

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HIAL’s managing director, Inglis Lyon, explained further: “Our airports are unique in that their core role is to provide lifeline services for our communities in the Highlands and Islands.

“They are essential to the continued delivery of medical and other critical supplies, the transport of key workers and also enable emergency flights for island communities.

“Now more than ever there is a need to safeguard those vital services.

“I appreciate this crisis is unknown territory for all of us and at this time we do not know how long these essential measures will remain in place.

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“We could not maintain these services for our communities without the extraordinary team spirit and commitment displayed by our staff right across the HIAL group and I am indebted to them for their continued flexibility and dedication during a very difficult time for us all.”

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said of the move: ““Our aviation sector is facing an unprecedented challenge in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, so the Scottish Government is working with industry partners to ensure our lifeline air links continue to operate for the remote communities that depend on them.

“These air routes are crucial for the transport of supplies and key workers, as well as providing a vital link when emergency transport to the mainland is required.

“I also wish to thank all the HIAL staff for their efforts during this difficult time.”

Information on the skeleton schedule at HIAL airports will be posted on the operator’s website and social media channels in due course.

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