Air service campaign says no one is listening

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The man behind the hugely successful social media campaign ‘Islanders For Fair Air Fares’ has admitted his fears that despite his campaign’s well publicised successes – no one is really listening to the public’s concerns over air travel to and from the islands.

Speaking to the Stornoway Gazette this week Scott Preston also confirmed the group have lodged a formal complaint with trading standards against Loganair/FlyBe for their continued high rate of credit card surcharges.

The campaign began on Facebook with the intention of driving prices down on flights to and from the islands and in six months ‘Islanders For Fair Air Fares’ have earned more than 15,000 page likes.

And proving people power can have an effect the campaign was the catalyst for both the newly-introduced bereavement discount on flights and was involved in the increase in the air discount scheme from 40 per cent to 50 per cent.

Yet Scott remains concerned: “At the moment the bigger issue than cost is reassurance that these flights are operating in a safe way. What’s going on? The truth of it is no one’s really listening.”

Reflecting on what began as an idea to drive prices down Scott continued: “Since I started this campaign six months ago I’ve learned a lot. I do spend a good eight to ten hours a day dealing with it. It wasn’t supposed to turn into something so complicated as it has.

“When I started it my thoughts were it’s Loganair, let’s tell them off. It’s aim was simply to get it cheaper.

“We introduced the bereavement discount in September which was my idea and I actually wrote the majority of the policy for it. I used to be a funeral director so I had background as to how it worked. To be fair to Loganair they came back with 50 per cent discount offer.

“I don’t want people to always see the negative in Loganair as they are all we have got. The operation isn’t big enough for most of the other airlines. We are not going to get an EasyJet or RyanAir.

“Loganair know there is a huge issue with reliability but they are working on it.”

The issue of additional credit charge surcharges is the next issue which Scott and his campaign have focused their steely gaze on but he warns this could be one battle which rages on and on.

He continued: “We have lodged a formal complaint with trading standards in September regarding credit card charges.

“The consumer protection regulations were introduced a year or two ago which said an operator of a service where you can pay by card cannot charge more than the actual cost of processing that payment.

“And they are not allowed to include things like staff costs. According to the CAA FlyBe charge highest credit card surcharge in the UK which is 3 per cent or £5 as a minimum.”

Scott is anxious to stress that not all issues can be laid at the Loganair door who he admits have been welcoming and open and hosted a five-hour meeting with his campaign in the summer months.

“They are very open and willing to talk to us but they are not willing to talk to everybody – eg passengers in an airport during a delay. They came back to say they don’t want to either bore people with technical details or worry nervous fliers but while we understand that  not telling people anything or being vague doesn’t tell us any real details or give anyone any confidence things are being resolved.

“We told them they needed to look at their fees and how they charge them. Also they need to communicate to people better.

“Loganair are a very expensive airline. What they don’t realise from what we at the campaign have been trying to tell them is to be willing to change they way they operate but they don’t seem to want to. Eg- they use an industry standard forecasting tool for pricing seats.

“Because of this they offer some seats cheaper and then others more expensive to cover their costs. All airlines use that kind of system but what we have said to Loganair is that when you know how many seats you have to fill just make every single seat the same price so everyone pays the same.”

In answer to the credit card complaint Flybe stated this week: “We can confirm that Flybe has not been made aware of a report made to the Trading Standards Authority regarding its credit card charges.

“Flybe is fully compliant with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Guide ‘Consumer Protection Regulations March 2012’ that very clearly explain the allowable costs that can be recovered through a payment surcharge.

“In 2013, Flybe was given a clean bill of health by the consumer watchdog, Which? This was demonstrated when, in publicly naming companies that in their opinion continued to overcharge customers, Flybe – unlike many of its competitors - was not one.

“It should also be pointed out that Flybe made huge steps in 2012 by being many months ahead of other leading airlines in scrapping debit card charges for all bookings made online.”