Councillor Donald Crichton has urged Loganair to investigate the possibility of turning the freight flight from Aberdeen to Stornoway carrying newspapers to the Western Isles into a passenger service as well, to remove the need to increase freight charges and at the same time provide a service suitable to oil industry workers from the islands.
Loganair say, however, this option is not possible as the plane used is a freight plane and is unable to carry passengers.
The proposed increase in freight charges by Loganair has meant that the distribution of newspapers to the islands is delayed and customers are not able to buy their papers until late in the afternoon with knock on effects for retailers and the local economy.
Writing to Phil Preston, Chief Operating Officer of Loganair, the Loch a Tuath Councillor said the delay in the distribution of newspapers in the islands would have a negative impact socially and economically in the community.
In his letter Mr Crichton said: “The unfortunate decision to increase the freight charges for newspapers and the subsequent removal of the service will have a negative impact on the community both socially and economically. That need not be the case. There could be a real commercial opportunity here for your company to extend the freight flight into a passenger service which would not only meet a demand for an earlier flight from and to Aberdeen but would also be financially viable and remove the need for any increase in freight charges.
The flight returning from the Islands to Aberdeen having delivered the newspapers need not be empty if you introduced a passenger service. There would be a demand for such a service as the present timetable for Aberdeen services is unsuitable for oil industry workers from the Western Isles.”
“As you know I raised the issue of introducing a passenger service to Aberdeen with you when you met with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the Comhairle earlier this year. Since then we have seen the contract for the delivery of newspapers to the islands brought to an abrupt end leaving customers and retailers at a loss and making the Aberdeen route obsolete even as a freight flight.”
Mr Crichton concluded: “I would urge you to investigate the development of the Aberdeen route as a freight and passenger service so that your company enjoys the benefits of what I believe would be a financially viable service. The communities of the Western Isles could then resume getting their newspapers at a reasonable time of day and the public could also take advantage of an enhanced Aberdeen service.”
Phil Preston, chief operating officer of Loganair, confirmed he had received correspondence from Cllr Crichton but added: “The aircraft used to deliver the newspapers to Stornoway from Aberdeen is a freighter and unable to carry passengers.”