By RYAN TAYLOR
LOGANAIR chiefs have moved to reassure passengers that its imminent switch from BA to the Flybe franchise will help improve airline services.
Bosses were in the isles this week to stress the company was well placed to look after customers flying from Shetland when the change-over takes place on 26th October.
Acting chief executive David Harrison and sales and marketing manager Susan Blacklaw met members of Shetland Islands Council’s external transport forum on Tuesday.
The two put up a robust defence of the change-over plans amid fears services could suffer.
Questions ranged from baggage charges and online booking arrangements to the future of the popular Air Discount Scheme, which will continue once the change over has taken place.
Mr Harrison said customers should not see any difference in the quality of service they currently receive, other than cosmetic changes such as new uniforms for staff and livery changes for the aircraft.
One thing passengers will be asked for, however, is a form of photo ID, which will be “mandatory” from the first day of the change-over.
Ms Blacklaw said passengers could apply for a Citizen card, which offers photographic ID, at a cost of £5.
Application forms for the cards will be available through HIAL’s network of airports and at travel agents.
Mr Harrison said staff could take a little time to familiarise themselves with new computer systems, but stressed all should be running smoothly “by day three”.
Ms Blacklaw said Loganair would be retaining its code share arrangement with British Airways, allowing it to reconnect with more regional routes throughout the UK.
She said passengers flying from Sumburgh would be able to connect through the entire Flybe network.
Fears were raised passengers could find themselves stranded down south if weather or technical difficulties prevent them from making a connecting flight.
But current arrangements to offer accommodation or a seat on the next available flight will continue, regardless of whether passengers are awaiting Flybe or BA connections.
Charges over baggage charges caused some confusion among forum members, but Ms Blacklaw said passengers flying from Sumburgh on a Loganair service would continue to receive a “complementary” luggage service of up to 15 kilos.
Customers with luggage exceeding that limit face a flat fee charge of £10. The British Airways limit of 23 kilos applies if passengers are connecting to a BA service.
Passengers travelling with Flybe on mainland routes would already have been charged for baggage as part of the online booking system.
Exceptional items such as golf clubs or fishing tackle will also face an additional £10 charge, although there will be no charge for medical equipment such as wheelchairs.
Loganair’s management were at pains to point out the company will continue to be responsible for its air fares and will have control over its own tariffs.
It is bad news for passengers hoping to take part in British Airways’ loyalty schemes such as the executive club. Because Loganair will no longer be a BA partner, passengers will be unable to take part in BA loyalty schemes on Loganair flights.
A Flybe rewards programme will be in operation, however, allowing points to be earned on every flight and exchanged for free flights or a pass for lounge access.
Flybe now has lounges at Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as throughout its own network.
Passengers travelling on economy plus tickets (equivalent of full fare) are entitled to complimentary lounge access. Low fares which have been traditionally non-changeable can now be changed with £30 per flight fee. Names can also be changed at the same cost.
Changes must be made a minimum of two hours before the original departure time.
? The changeover comes amid growing concerns over the future stability of airlines following the economic downturn.
Mr Harrison said a combination of high fuel prices and a general economic downturn had led to a “fairly gloomy” picture in the aviation industry.
He highlighted comments from BA chief executive, Willie Walsh, who said this year’s first quarterly results made for “the worst trading environment the industry has ever faced”.
Mr Harrison said Loganair was “not immune” to the global downturn, and said the rising cost of fuel had brought about “an extra cost to Loganair of £4 million” per annum.
“On a more positive note, we’re pleased to note continuing passenger growth,” he said, adding numbers from Shetland had shown a 10 per cent growth from January to July.
“It is a good growth and we’re pleased with that,” Mr Harrison said, although he added routes to Edinburgh fared better than those to Inverness.
His comments come after the transatlantic budget carrier Zoom Airlines suspended its flights before going into administration.
The company blamed its problems on fuel costs, which added over £27 million to its annual fuel bills.