It’s a dog’s life for travelling pet owners

Island pet owner June Lafferty, with her dog Coco, criticised Loganair's price hike.
Island pet owner June Lafferty, with her dog Coco, criticised Loganair's price hike.

Island air provider Loganair often trumpets that they offer great services for residents and visitors travelling to and from the Outer Hebrides, but this week they have been accused of profiteering by an Island pet owner, who was recently shocked to discover that the ‘fare’ for her dog has increased from £20 return to £100 return. It seems that man’s best friend costs just as much as an Islander (with the benefit of ADS) to transport.

All in all it’s a dog’s life for travelling pet owners, unless they have their own car, because whilst there is no problem with pets travelling by ferry, if you and your pet need to travel on by bus you face the uncertainty of ‘driver’s discretion’, if using Citylink from Ullapool.

Reader June Lafferty (pictured with her dog Coco above) said of the Loganair price hike this week: “Previously the fare for a dog, which has always been bookable in advance, was £20 return.

“As of April 1st it has gone up to £100 return. I travel several times a year with my dog but unfortunately I can no longer afford this.

“Trying to take a dog off the island is impossible unless you are travelling by car. Taking them on the ferry is no problem but on arriving at Ullapool and attempting to board the bus is a no go as Citylink say it’s up to the driver’s discretion.

“The drivers apparently say no, therefore you would be stuck in Ullapool, and have to return on the ferry.

“At least the plane was reliable but to increase the fare by 400% is clearly just profiteering.

“I believe the SSPCA used to take animals to Inverness by plane but this has probably stopped them from doing this now.”

As recently as last September Loganair were delighted to promote their cheap deal for pets, posting on Facebook: “Here at Loganair, we truly believe that pets are part of the family and no family holiday is complete without all of the family. That’s why we allow dogs to travel on our flights for as little as £20 return.”

However, now it seems the airline feels their pet deal was too good.

When the Gazette contacted Loganair about the issue, Loganair Managing Director Jonathan Hinkles said: “We have recently changed our policy to move from a £10 charge to take an animal in an approved travel container on standby on a Loganair flight to a £50 charge for guaranteed travel.

“The previous ‘standby’ policy had proven ineffective as it was impossible to reasonably deny carriage at the airport to an animal whose owner was booked on the same flight.

“We also saw several instances where other customers’ bags were offloaded to make space in aircraft holds for the animal to travel, incurring significant costs to reunite customers with delayed bags and compensate them for expenses incurred.

“We believe that the revised charge still represents a very favourable deal for animal travel when viewed against other airlines’ fees, and now provides customers with a far greater level of confidence than the previous standby policy. Carriage of accredited guide dogs in the aircraft cabin remains unchanged and free of charge.”

June contacted Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan over the matter to see if he could offer any information and help.

He said to the Gazette: “As the drivers of Citylink coaches have discretion over dogs travelling on their vehicles, flying remains the only assured method of public transport available for people to travel with their pets to the rest of Scotland.

“I find Loganair’s decision to impose a 400% increase in their charge for this service bizarre, and I wrote to Loganair’s Managing Director last week to ask how the company can justify this.

“While their reply cited issues to do with hold space and compensation costs for customers who have had delayed luggage, I still fail to see how this justifies such a massive increase.

“I have also taken this issue up with Citylink, as I believe there should be some kind of common-sense solution put in place, to allow pet owners to know if their pet will be able to travel before they arrive in Ullapool.”